February 4 is World Cancer Day, celebrated to raise awareness of various cancers. Rwanda marked the day yesterday with great interest in stepping up the fight against cervical cancer.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, most new cases of cervical cancer have been reported in Rwanda.
New cases of cervical cancer increased by 12.2% to 1304, the organization said.
This was followed by breast cancer in 1131 cases, colon cancer (rectal and colon cancer) in 838 cases, gastric cancer at 803 and liver cancer with 737 new cases.
Dr. Francois Wynnkiddi, director of the cancer program at the Rwandan Biomedical Center, says that the cancer cases reported in Rwanda's hospitals are about half of those in WHO statistics.
"The WHO acknowledges the fact that some cases do not reach hospitals for diagnosis, so WHO statistics are higher than those in hospitals."
What is it done?
At a meeting to increase the number of health services two weeks ago, Health Minister Dr Diane Gashimba said there was a plan to modernize health centers so they could start testing non-communicable diseases.
This is contained in the ministry's seven-year program.
Uvankindi says that a good vaccination program is needed to fight cervical cancer.
In this area, Rwanda is doing well with 93% coverage.
According to the WHO, countries should have at least 70% of their eligible women vaccinated against human papillomavirus, the virus that causes cancer.
"Vaccination is free and is given to girls at the age of 12. This is done in healthcare facilities and through campaigns at different locations like schools, "he said.
In Rwanda screening can be done in 26 hospitals and 240 health centers.
However, Uwankindi says some Rwandans did not respond well to screening services.
An insured person, mutuelle de santé, can be checked by paying only 200 francs in Rwanda.
Screening is also targeted at women aged over thirty, as the risk is more than the age.
Oda Nsabimana, a survivor of breast cancer, stressed the importance of early tests.
"The problem is that people are afraid to test. However, when you know early, the cancer is curable. They should not be afraid because even other diseases kill, "she said.
Nsabimana knows she had cancer in 2003.
Early treatment helped her survive, she said.
Fifteen years ago, cancer patients like Nsabimana had to seek treatment from foreign countries like Kenya.
Currently, however, Rwanda has five hospitals that can provide cancer treatment.
Kigali University Hospital offers surgery, King Faisal Hospital offers surgery and medicines, Butarto Cancer Center offers chemotherapy. ,
Dr. Wangkindi says one of the major challenges is the under-knowledge of cancer issues among the general public.
Among the ways to prevent cervical cancer, he adds, are vaccination, avoiding adolescent sex and without many sexual partners.
He calls this as primary prevention.
Secondary prevention is primarily through screening. If precancerous symptoms are detected, treatment is started to avoid the development of cervical cancer.
He added that uterine cervical cancer is cured when it is detected early. He warned that one should go screening at least once a year.
The government says that over the next three years, all hospitals and health centers across the country will be able to offer screening for cervical cancer.
Uwankini says that raising awareness of cervical cancer in women and girls is crucial to tackling the disease.