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North West fights cervical cancer head on

Written by: More Matshediso

Boitumelo Selele (40) from Potchefstroom in the North West was recently treated at the new gynaecological oncology services unit at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp.

Selele recently had a pap-smear at Potchefstroom local clinic and the results indicated that she had a clot in her womb. “I was transferred to the hospital for a procedure,” she said.

Selele was discharged, without complications, and said she was glad to have been treated close to home. She also praised the staff for their emotional support.

The hospital has recruited highly-skilled obstetricians and gynaecologists to improve public healthcare services in the province. Dr Tom de Greve, a gynaecological cancer surgeon, is among these specialists.

The North West Department of Health’s Spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, said cervical cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide, with over 500 000 new cases and 250 000 deaths every year. “In South Africa, one in every 42 women is affected by this cancer,” he confirmed.

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, which holds the baby during pregnancy. Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes abnormal changes in the cells located in the cervix. HPV is transmitted though skin-to-skin contact, body fluids and sexual intercourse.

Women with abnormal vaginal bleeding, including inter-menstrual bleeding, post-sexual intercourse bleeding and increased vaginal discharge are advised to consult a doctor to exclude a cancer or pre-cancerous lesion of the cervix.

“With this new unit we hope to reduce the burden of this preventable cancer, by enhancing the detecting and treatment of pre-cancerous cervical lesions and treating women locally,” Lekgethwane said.

Dr de Greve said a cervical cancer diagnosis is made by performing a biopsy of the cervix. “Once diagnosed with cervical cancer, a referral to a specialised centre should be made,” he said.

A series of tests, including a scan, will be performed to assess whether the cancer has spread. “Depending on several factors, a treatment plan will be offered. Treatment consists of a combination of specialised gynaecological cancer surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Women with early stage cervical cancer have a good prognosis, if appropriately treated,” said Dr de Greve.                                 

For more information about cervical cancer, contact the Cancer Association of South Africa at 0800 22 66 22