SHE is a beacon of hope to many women, who have come to think a cancer diagnosis is a sure sign that their health is going to deteriorate eventually leading to certain death.
BY BYRON MUTINGWENDE
Talent Yakado’s story is that of a fighter, who never surrenders. Recounting her story with ease, she took the writer through her life’s journey and how she has not turned her back to educating women on cancer.
“Soon after delivering my baby in 2011, I went for a test at Spilhaus, where Sister Tigere diagnosed me with cervical cancer. An oncologist from the University of Zimbabwe, Mike Chirenje treated me in about 20 minutes,” she said.
“Since the cervical cancer was in its initial stages, I underwent what is called colposcopy, where they removed and burnt the cancerous cells. After that procedure, it took me about six weeks to heal and the cervical cancer hasn’t come back since then.”
She goes for check-ups every six months for visual inspection with acetic acid and cervicography (VIAC), which is a see-and-treat method. In addition she also undergoes PAP smear, a way of detecting cancer from the mouth of the uterus.
There are several ways of preventing cancer. These include, but are not limited to, eating healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables, exercising and not smoking.
As a survivor of cervical cancer, Yakado was inspired to do something to help women, who may fall into the same predicament and started Tanyaradzwa Cancer Trust.
“The trust raises awareness, provides counselling and embarks on outreach programmes throughout the country. I have been to as far as Mt Selinda, Hwange, Binga and other far-away places. We have been to schools, clinics, hospitals and companies, where I give testimonials on the importance of early screening of cervical cancer,” she said.
Yakado said about 95% of cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. HPV remains neutral in men.
“Early screening is always the best so that women can know their status before it spreads. Screening is offered at New Start Centres, and local clinics and hospitals, which offer VIAC for free. VIAC is not a walk-in procedure and needs prior booking. There is a need to talk about cancer as much as we can,” she said.
“Tanyaradzwa Cancer Trust is appealing for funding to carry out awareness campaigns countrywide. It is important to encourage women to go for regular screening, since cervical cancer can take up to 20 years without any symptoms.”
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Zimbabwe commemorated the 2016 World Cancer Day at Sakubva in Mutare. At the event one Gogo Phiri (65) also testified on how she survived breast cancer. The UN agency said it was important to dispel myths that cancer cannot be treated.
Health and Child care minister David Parirenyatwa called on people to change their lifestyles as a way of fighting the spread of cancer, a position supported by UNFPA.
“UNFPA is committed to ensuring that women realise their potential through healthy, productive life and equitable access to reproductive health rights,” he said.
The national cervical cancer screening project has been running since 2010 through the ISP programme with support from the embassies of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Sweden.
According to UNFPA cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer among women at 33,4%.
The theme for 2016 is: We can, I can: every woman counts. It’s not beyond us.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Zimbabwe report states that 30% of deaths were due to non-communicable diseases with 10% of those being caused by cancer.
UNFPA has provided 88 cervical cancer screening sites for VIAC, where more than 128 000 women have been screened.
UNFPA said it aims to increase the percentage of women in the 15-49 year age group, who are accessing cervical cancer screening from 9% to 35%. Cervical cancer falls under the second pillar of the Health Development Fund. The UN agency said 2 270 women are diagnosed with cancer and 1 451 of them die from the disease annually. It said in Zimbabwe, an estimated four women die every day due to cervical cancer. It added that currently 8,2 million people die yearly due to the disease globally.
On the other hand, the European Union (EU) has contributed another €14,3 million to the health sector in Zimbabwe which will be provided to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)-administered Health Transition Fund.
Under the National Indicative Programme (2014-2020), the EU delegation has already disbursed €38,6 million for the years 2014-2016 in support of the Health Transition Fund and the Health Development Fund has earmarked another €28 million for the next two years.