International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on the advances we’ve made to improve the health women in the developing world and the expertise of health professionals who care for them. In China, Project HOPE has made great strides to promote cervical cancer prevention and early diagnosis.
Cervical cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. The World Health Organization’s Cancer Fact Sheet of 2015 indicates there were:
- 530,000 new cervical cancer cases that accounted for 84 percent of new cancer cases worldwide in 2012
- Cervical cancer represents 7.5 percent of all female cancer deaths or 270,000 deaths among women every year
Project HOPE China has been focused on improving early detection, which can be lifesaving, especially in underserved rural areas. Thanks to the “Women’s Health-Cervical Cancer Prevention Program” funded by BD China, migrant women now understand the need for screenings to prevent cervical cancer. The long-term benefits in terms of the health and awareness of women and health care professionals who took part in the program from 2011 - 2014 endure even today. Together with the Shanghai’s Women’s Federation, we mobilized communities to share knowledge of the cervical cancer prevention program and educated thousands of women who later passed on this information to women in other communities. The program’s achievements include:
- 1200 women from the migrant worker population received free cervical cancer screenings for the first time
- 372 pathologists trained at the cervical screening and diagnosis unit to improve the capacity of cervical cytopathology diagnosis
- 330 gynecologists trained in cervical cancer diagnostic procedure and cytopathology staging and cervical cancer surgery
Ms. Xu C from Shanghai, 53, was a participant in the program. “If my lesions were not detected early, I would be at risk,” she said. “I am very grateful to Project HOPE for my free cancer screening. Now when I meet other women, I tell them to go to the hospital for a cervical cancer screening.”
Another successful project, HOPE’s five-year “Cervical Cancer/HPV Prevention Public Education Program”, sponsored by MSD (Asia) is reaching medical professionals and the media with important cervical cancer messages. The 2013 program has been active in 14 cities and involves 13 local partners throughout China. Program activities include training 1,455 doctors who now have the expertise to make more effective diagnoses and better understanding the linkage between HPV and cervical cancer. One gynecologist said, “Before the training, even if I met a patient with a suspected infection and lesion, I could not make an exact diagnosis.” Another pediatrician indicated that “I can provide a better explanation for parents who seek my suggestion for preventing HPV infection”. In addition, the program also conducted activities in seven regions of China to educate school teachers, parents and adolescents about adopting a positive approach to discussing reproductive health aimed at preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
HOPE also cooperated with the Health Communication Institute at Fudan University to conduct educational activities for journalists to educate reporters about the importance of cervical cancer screenings. One journalist said: “I hope to use the power of the media to promote the correct understanding of preventing HPV infection and cervical cancer in our communities, schools and families.” Educating reporters is an essential approach of the program to ensure the correct cervical cancer prevention information is distributed and reported in the public media to enhance disease awareness and preventive measures.
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