IMA World Health/April McCoy

The short rainy season last year made the December heat unbearable, but still the women lined up outside Musoma Regional Hospital in Tanzania’s Mara Region one hot afternoon. Ten women had already been screened for cervical cancer that day; four more were waiting.

Shamim Shabani Sarehe was one of those in line. A 28-year-old married mother-of-three, Shamim had suffered from continuous bleeding for many months. Even though a mass was removed from her uterus last year, the bleeding returned a month later and she began to suffer from pain in her breast. When she learned Musoma Hospital had begun offering cervical cancer screenings, she decided to make the journey from her home in Kyakato village.

IMA World Health spearheaded the launch of the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control program at Musoma Hospital in November 2012 to help meet the great need for early detection and treatment in Tanzania. According to recent studies, a weakened immune system due to HIV significantly increases a woman’s chance of developing cervical cancer. Tanzania, with its high HIV rates, has the highest cervical cancer mortality rate in the developing world.

IMA World Health, an implementing partner in the consortium for Project LEAD, (which provides HIV/AIDS testing and treatment) launched the cervical cancer screening services at Musoma Hospital as a complement to the cervical cancer project at Shirati Hospital, which IMA launched in August 2011.

Now women who come to Musoma Hospital to be screened for HIV/AIDS also receive cervical cancer screening and counseling, helping to address two major health concerns with just one visit.

When Shamim’s turn came for testing, RN Plaxeda Pande and midwife Joachim Masunga performed the cervical cancer screening and breast exam to find that Shamim’s breast tissue and her cervix were both normal. She was referred to the hospital gynecologist to address her bleeding. In one year, Shamim can return for her recommended annual screening.

After her screening, Shamim said she received “very service” and feels the program is very relevant to the women in the Mara region. “ is very important because so many women have problems with their reproductive organs and they need these services to treat them.” Shamim said she wishes services like these could be provided for all women who have health issues similar to her own.

The cervical cancer screenings have been very popular so far.

Since the opening ceremony in November, facilitated by Acting Mara Regional Medical Officer Dr. Omari Gamuya, hundreds of women have been screened. During the first four days, more than 100 women arrived by 8 a.m. each morning and waited in line to receive screening services. More than 500 women were screened during those four days, and one of the biggest accomplishments was that every woman who needed a cryotherapy procedure received it that same day.

As Dr. Gamuya stressed in his remarks at the project’s opening ceremony, the key to cervical cancer prevention is screening. IMA World Health and our partners are dedicated to making sure as many women in Tanzania’s Musoma and Shirati Hospitals and beyond have access to this important service to help increase early detection and, most importantly, save lives.

As we observe World Cancer Day on Monday, February 4th, IMA also continues to be proudly committed to our Burkitt’s Lymphoma Prevention and Control program, which provides training for health workers and essential chemotherapy for children suffering from this aggressive but treatable childhood cancer.

Join IMA to celebrate World Cancer Day on February 4 by making a donation now!