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Cervical cancer to be zapped

A new cervical cancer machine has brought hope to women in KwaZulu-Natal.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has invested about R900 000 in purchasing 15 new cervical cancer machines, offering hope to women at risk of developing the disease.

Unlike many cancers, cancer of the cervix is preventable. The new Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone (LLETZ) machines will make it easier to detect abnormalities in the cervix that could lead to cancer.

The LLETZ is said to be one of the most effective procedures to prevent cervical cancer in women who are at high risk.

The machine conducts a small, non-invasive surgical procedure on the woman’s cervix. Using electrical current, the LLETZ procedure removes part of the cervix where abnormal cells might develop into cancer.

An important feature of cervical cancer is that the disease has a long pre-cancer phase which lasts for several years. This provides an opportunity to detect it through regular pap smears, and then treat it with the LLETZ procedure before it can progress to cancer.

The new machines would allow this procedure to be more widely available, and therefore increase the capacity to prevent cervical cancer in KwaZulu-Natal. Waiting times for cervical cancer treatment will also be reduced. Medical officers have been trained to use the machines, and the programme will focus on prevention through early detection of abnormalities.

Currently, 17 hospitals in the province are equipped with purpose-designed, functioning LLETZ machines.

The new machines will be distributed to Nkandla, Eshowe, Benedictine, Nkonjeni, Osindisweni and King Dinuzulu hospitals.

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said medical officers would make use of the machines because of the lack of oncologists in far-off areas.

“With the advent of LLETZ procedures, particularly in rural-based hospitals, we are sure to treat this form of ailment before it progresses to cancer, which again, we emphasise, is preventable,” said MEC Dhlomo.