After three days of reading about the “See and Treat” training program in Ukerewe, I’m sure you’re curious about the women here on the island in gorgeous Lake Victoria. Why is the positivity rate for precancerous lesions much higher in this particular region, compared to those in other areas of the world? Who are these women? You’ve read this week about the blackout we were able to work through, and about the wonderful training program that we have had here. Now you need to know some of their stories, and to finally understand what exactly we’ve provided these 103 women who came for screening today.
A common question here is “How many times have you given birth? Followed by “How many live children do you have?” There is an inherent assumption in this region that many of the babies have not made it through infancy. One woman, in particular, comes to mind as an example. She had given birth to 11 children, of whom four are still alive, and all have different fathers. She arrived to the clinic asking about how to get her tubes tied so she would not have to continue having children. Our trainee David explained to me that women carry the burden of children, but lack a voice of how many they want to have.
I want to stress the importance of what CureCervicalCancer and other organizations with similar prevention programs are doing. Women get screened and are educated about the importance of cervical health, most often for the first time . The majority have never even had a vaginal exam. A visit to a CureCervicalCancer clinic gives women the opportunity to ask questions and to learn about reproductive health, the importance of condoms, and of family planning. The power of these simple offerings is illustrated by the story of a woman we screened today. She came into the room and after she had been screened with a very healthy cervix, she showed me a card, which indicated she had been positive for precancerous lesions last year. She had been treated and was told to return for followup. Many patients are lost in followup, but this happens to be a success story. This woman is just one in hundreds of thousands that these programs have the potential to save. I asked her after if she would share her story. She was 37 years old and had given birth to 4 babies. She was screened 1 year and 4 months ago on the mainland and treated at the same time. She first heard about CureCervicalCancer’s services at her church, when an announcement was made. She was just so happy to see her negative result. I, for one, was very inspired by her story.