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Lawmakers: Expand Free Cancer Screening to Rural Areas

MP Paurina Mpariwa says the free program should be rolled out in all constituencies, especially in rural communities.
Female lawmakers are demanding the expansion to rural communities of the program that provided them with free cervical cancer screening in Parliament this week.

The parliamentarians on Wednesday agreed that most women in rural communities know little, if anything, about the disease, raising the need for the government to spread the program’s reach.

Speaking at a press conference just before the end of the three-day exercise jointly organized by Population Services International (PSI) and the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, deputy chair of the caucus Paurina Mpariwa said the program, meant to raise awareness about cervical cancer, was successful.

Mpariwa said it should be rolled out in all constituencies, especially in rural communities.

She said the women's caucus has made arrangements with the PSI to carry out free cervical cancer screening throughout the country.

Speaking at the end of the screening exercise, one of the lawmakers said it is important for women to know their status as early detection can save lives.

She bemoaned the unavailability of screening facilities in rural areas saying in cases where hospitals are well-equipped; they are often too far away from most people.

Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa, who lost a sister-in-law to cervical cancer, is concerned about the lack knowledge about the disease in her constituency.

Mpariwa said by lunchtime 45 lawmakers from the lower house and 42 parliamentary staff had been screened for the disease, adding more would undergo the exercise at a later date.

The lawmakers displayed their test results but PSI officials and parliament clinic staff refused to disclose whether any were found to be at risk saying they were confidential.

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb. It usually develops slowly. The condition can be detected by a pap smear or screening and is 100 percent treatable. Most women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer today have not had regular pap smears or they have not followed up on abnormal pap smear results.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. A woman's sexual habits and patterns can increase her risk of developing cervical cancer. Risky sexual practices include having sex at an early age, having multiple sexual partners, having a partner or many partners who are active in high-risk sexual activities.

Risk factors for cervical cancer include not getting the HPV vaccine, being poor and a weakened immune system. Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms but some women may experience abnormal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause or periods that become heavier and last longer than usual.

About 1,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer very year and 1,200 of them lose their lives.