Cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer among women in Uganda and every year over 200,000 women die of cervical cancer in Africa.
However, the easiest the way to beat this cancer is early detection, says Dr Francesco Aloi, Country Representative of AISPO (Italian Association for Solidarity among People) an organization behind Lights for Cancer campaign.
This campaign aims at creating awareness on the prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer and cervical cancer.
UGO Uganda had a one on one with Dr Francesco and Giacomo Corrado, the Assistant of Gynecologic Oncology Unit, “Regina Elena” National Cancer Centre of Rome – Italy as they explained the need as to why women should adopt the culture of going for regular screening and checkups to beat the cancer.
Tell us about the Lights for Cancer Campaign?
The Lights for Cancer is a project aimed at creating awareness on the prevention, early detection and treatment of breast cancer and cervical cancer. Nsambya Hospital, sponsored by the Italian Government, AISPO (Italian Association for Solidarity among People) in partner with other two Italian NGOs – Oncology for Africa (AFRON) and Pathologists Beyond Borders (APOF) are behind this project.
We sensitize the society and invite them to perform screening for these cancers. It is a prevention treatment and after we gave the patients the right treatment if necessary. In the western countries, this screening is usually done every after a certain period of time according to the policy of the country and now Uganda is starting to follow suit.
This project is in line with the strategic plan of the Ministry of Health and we are mainly focusing on the sensitization part which is very important. The project is going to run for three years.
What is the aim behind Lights for Cancer campaign?
The campaign mainly is to sensitize the people on certain kinds of cancers and show them that it is important to prevent them. We offer free screening and examination. We perform a Pap smear test and breast cancer examination after we follow up on the cases according to the number of patients that come. If we detect the cases with the samples got, we do surgical treatment if necessary or do chemotherapy treatment. We provide everything here at Nsambya hospital.
What is the target audience?
We are mainly targeting the women because the project is mainly for this purpose (cancer)
What is the most effective way to beat cancer at an early detection?
The first important thing to do as a woman is to go for screening especially if you are sexually active. Cervical Cancer is caused by a papillomavirus which is transmitted through sex especially with someone who has different sexual partners.
What mainly causes cervical cancer?
The first cause of cervical cancer is a virus called papillomavirus which is most frequent in girls/women because it is transmitted through sexual activity. It causes the normal cells to change into the cancer cells of the cervix.
Why is it mostly in women?
The man is a vector who transmits the virus from one person to another. However, there are many things that could cause it like hygiene. But a woman who has more than one partner is at a risk. So most of the time, one has to monitor herself, by going for regular checkups and screening.
What are you offering at this campaign?
We perform the screening which includes the Pap test. A Pap test is a system that consists to keep the cell in the cervix. We put the cells in this light and our pathologists can read and see the shape of the cells through a microscope to know the stage of the infection. This exam takes about 2-3minutes and is very important.
Patients in early stages of the cancers can be given the right treatment, and others who have so much advanced that you can even physically see it, they have to be treated.
What kind of treatment do you always give to cancer patients?
According to the type of case, we have to choose the type of treatment to administer. If necessary, we give a direct operation or radiotherapy.
What kind of advice do you give these women to help prevent cervical cancer?
We give them a brochure and tell them what behaviors to avoid, but the most important thing is what we realize in this campaign and the feedback from the people. Several people don’t know what we are talking about. It is important to sensitize the public. We also give them screening and treatment.
Have you got any positive patients for cancer since the campaign started?
Yes, we already got some positive. But we have to do further investigation, a biopsy and then go deeper and advise the patient on what to do.
What is the turn of people coming for screening so far at the hospital?
The turn up has been good. Today is just the third day since the campaign started. The first day we had 54 patients and 75 patients on the second day. However, for me what I consider effective is the number of patients coming in and the number of positive cases.
What advice would you give to the audience about cancer?
The most important thing is that you don’t have to wait to test for cancer when there is free testing somewhere. They have to become cautious and understand that it is for their life and they have to make sure they you check yourself.