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Mashonaland West Women Get Free Cancer Screening

Cervical cancer is a big problem in Zimbabwe as women have found it difficult to get pap smears due to lack funds and sometimes knowledge.

But women in Mashonaland West have reason to smile following the launch of a free cervical cancer prevention program.

Known as Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid and Cervicography (VIAC), with three specialised nurses having screened about 1,200 women since April, the program is being hailed by women in Chinhoyi and the surrounding areas who do not have to part with a single cent to be screened for the deadly disease.

Dr. Takura Kanonge, who is administering the program, says of those screened since April, about five percent, translating to 60, already had the disease and some are being treated at the hospital with a few referred to specialists at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare for radiation.

Cervical cancer occurs at the mouth of the womb and is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus which is mainly sexually transmitted.

Cervical cancer accounts for a third of all cancers in Zimbabwean women.

Dr. Kanonge says multiple sexual partners and smoking in women can also increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.

Most women in Chinhoyi told VOA Studio 7 they were voluntarily getting screened because they do not have to raise $300 to $500 being demanded by private doctors and hospitals respectively.

Elizabeth Keni, a teacher in Chinhoyi, is among women who were screened recently. Another mother from Chikonohono high density suburb, Wadzanai Marume, says she decided to get tested just to be sure of her status.

Three million women, mainly in rural areas, are expected to be screened and treated under the program in the next three years.

Dr. Kanonge is happy because the program has been embraced by women from all walks of life, raising hope the country can reduce cervical cancer deaths.

People living with HIV/AIDS are also being encouraged to get screened at least once every two years while those who have tested negative should do so every two years.

If detected early, cervical cancer is easily treated. All women of child bearing age are being encouraged to undergo VIAC screening, said Dr. Kanonge.

Zimbabwean professor, Mike Chirenje, is one of the scientists who discovered the VIAC concept that was first implemented in 2011.

The program is being run with the support of the United Nations Population Fund with the main goal of improving the quality of life of rural women in Zimbabwe.