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Accra March 18, GNA - The Ghana Cervicare Project will this year institute a "Well Woman and Well Man" programme to enable Ghanaians to undergo special examination for cervical and prostrate cancers every month. The programme which will be housed at the Ridge Hospital would aim at reducing the increasing rate of the cancers among Ghanaians. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Accra on Tuesday, Mrs Gertrude Anteh, Principal Midwifery Superintendent at the Ridge Hospital said for the smooth take-off of the programme, the hospital was renovating the Family Planning Department, adding that equipment to be used for the project were ready. She said the department would be undertaking breast cancer screening and treatment in addition to the treatment for cervical as well as prostrate cancers.
Mrs Anteh said many women had visited the centre to have their cervix and breast examined at the start of the Project in 2001, when examination was done freely but "now that we charge one cedi, people are not coming".
She said in 2007, 867 women visited the department out of which 25 tested positive. She described the number as very high and alarming because "even 10 is still considered a very significant number that demands urgent attention".
Cervical cancer like all cancers develops slowly, over a period of years, from cells that have changed. In the early stage, these changes are small that they are like a "rash" called dysphasia. The small rash, caused by a germ called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), often causes no symptoms making it very difficult for women to know they have the cancer. The small rush in some do heal by itself whilst in other women it does not but develops into a large "sore" on the cervix, which is termed cervical cancer. HPV testing could reduce the incidence of grade 2 or 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or cervical cancer detected by subsequent screening among women 32-38 years old. The early stages of cervical cancer may be completely asymptomatic. Vaginal bleeding, contact bleeding or a vaginal mass may indicate the presence of malignancy.
In addition, moderate pain during sexual intercourse and vaginal discharge are symptoms of cervical cancer. In an advanced stage, metastases may be present in the abdomen, lungs or elsewhere. Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer may include: loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, single swollen leg, heavy bleeding from the vagina, leaking of urine or faeces from the vagina, and bone fractures.
Mrs Anteh noted that everybody was at risk but was more likely to affect women with ages between 40 and 60 years though the early small rash could appear in a woman when she was in her twenties, which takes many years to develop into cervical cancer. "Women who first have sex before they are 20 years of age, when their cervix is not fully grown are more likely to get HPV on the cervix. Women who have multiple partners or whose partners have many partners are also likely to get the HPV germ which causes the rashes on their cervix".
She explained that cervical cancer could be treated with cryotherapy when detected early. Cryotherapy, which uses cold gas, freezes the rash and stops it from growing and developing into a cancer. The procedure takes only 15 minutes and may cause some discomfort, abdominal cramps, she said adding, "After the treatment, your cervix is like any other wound, therefore it must be protected so that it can heal and not become infected".
She advised that women who had undergone treatment should not have sexual relations for at least four weeks, insert fingers when washing to ensure a proper healing of the wound.
Mrs Anteh advised women whose test proved negative to undergo the test again in five years or have repeated treatment and urged all women from 25 years to undergo the cervical and breast cancer screening to know their condition.
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