This year’s theme is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world



By Mandy Nyama


The world is celebrating International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, and this year’s theme is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases.

As a way of appreciating women on their role they play in promoting a health society, on this week’s health Column I am going to talk about Cervical Cancer which is the 4th most commonly diagnosed cancer among females worldwide.

Cervical Cancer:
Is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

It estimated that 2270 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Zimbabwe annually and a mortality rate of 64% has been recorded. Cervical Cancer ranks the 1st leading female Cancers in Zimbabwe. It accounts for 25% of all cancer cases and about 23% of cancer deaths among women in Zimbabwe. It is the 2nd most common female cancer in women aged between 15years to 44years.

Cervical Cancer is still very high in Zimbabwe mainly as a result of late presentation of disease, poor screening, diagnosis and treatment facilities which is compounded by the very high HIV incidence.

Causes of Cervical Cancer:

Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.

There are also risk factors for cervical cancer include:

Many sexual partners.
The greater your number of sexual partners and the greater your chance of acquiring HPV.

Early sexual activity.
Having sex at an early age increases your risk of HPV.

Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Having other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS increases your risk of HPV. A weakened immune system. You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition eg HIV

Signs and Symptoms:

Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of more-advanced cervical cancer include:

Abnormal vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause.
Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odour.

Pain during sexual intercourse.

Increased urinary frequency

Pain during urination
The mentioned symptoms could also be signs of other health problems, not related to cervical cancer. It is advisable to seek medical help.

Receiving a vaccination to prevent HPV infection may reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries that are still in the pilot phase for a three-dose schedule for Cervarix (HPV16/18) and Ordasit (HPV6/11/16/18) HPV vaccine programme.

Over 35% of women contract HPV within two years of on-setting sexual activity so this program in Zimbabwe targets 10 year old girls or girls that have not lost their virginity.

The vaccine is safe to administer to immuno-compromised individuals It is hoped that these vaccination programs will lead to a decrease in cervical cancer according to MOHCC.

Early detection can be achieved by conducting regular screening.

Having routine Pap Smear tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer. Pap smear is one of the most reliable and effective screening methods

Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Camera (VIAC) is an effective way of screening to prevent Cervical Cancer in women aged 30 to 50 years. MOHCC has established Cervical Cancer prevention programs that offers VIAC screening and treatment at major government hospitals.

VIAC can be used as part of a “see and treat” strategy. Nine Harare city council health facilities offer VIAC free of charge.

Practice of safe sex can reduce the risk of cervical cancer and also living a healthy lifestyle.

It depends on the kind of cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

Doctors remove cancer tissue in an operation.

Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.

Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer.

Cervical cancer is preventable. Routine screening and early treatment can prevent 8 in 10 cervical cancer cases, if the abnormalities in the cervix are identified early.

HPV vaccines hold a promise in the fight against cervical cancer. Community engagement is an important activity that should be undertaken to improve the uptake of health initiatives by communities including early screening for cervical cancer.

Due to lack of screening, most women in Zimbabwe are diagnosed with cervical cancer at advanced stage which has a prognosis of 63% 5-year survival rate, 57% remission rate with treatment and 42% recurrence.

Healthy women are the cornerstone of healthy societies.

Happy International Women’s Day to all women out there. Stay in touch with The MailOnline and The Sunday Express.

Mandy Nyama is a Health Care Professional (BTech in Healthcare and Public Health). Feedback:



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