Marie Stopes International Australia

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Cervical cancer awareness in Myanmar

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women aged 15 to 44 in Myanmar. Our program in Myanmar is running one of the only cervical cancer awareness programs in the country, integrating it with our other sexual and reproductive health services.

With the monsoon season’s rain falling heavily on the tin roof, Ma Thin Zar Htun had to raise her voice to be heard by the 25 women assembled in the small house in Nga Pa. A community outreach worker from Marie Stopes International (MSI) Myanmar, she was leading a health education session about cervical cancer, its risk factors and causes, and its symptoms.

She discussed how to prevent cervical cancer, including HPV vaccination, and, most importantly, how screening for cervical cancer was available at MSI Myanmar’s nearby Thanlyin centre. Early detection and diagnosis of cervical cancer greatly increases the chance for successful further treatment.

Getting information to women for the first time

Ma Cho Cho Win, a 43-year-old mother of four and grandmother, hosted this session in her home on the outskirts of Yangon where most of her neighbours work as day labourers.

“I want women from this community to get knowledge about their health. We have no information before now about this disease,” she said.

A long-time client of MSI Myanmar’s family planning services, she said she was glad to learn more about the causes and consequences of cervical cancer and she was now motivated to go for a screening. Especially after learning that the VIA (Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid) screening procedure can be done in only a few minutes at the centre, and that referrals and financial support for further testing are available for any abnormal cases detected.

The Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Project

Since February 2013, MSI Myanmar has undertaken one of the very few cervical cancer awareness programs in the country. The project has received financial support from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and technical resources and leadership provided by MSI through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Moe Thida, MSI Myanmar’s Clinical Services Manager explains:

“We always knew this was a big issue for women’s health in Myanmar. Now we have the resources and experience to do something about it.”

Over 100,000 women, men, and young people have been reached so far through similar health education sessions as the one attended by Ma Cho Cho Win and her neighbours.

Dr The Su Phyu, Centre Manager at Thanlyin, and her community outreach team are determined to continue to spread the word about cervical cancer and what can be done to prevent and treat it.

“Every client who comes, whether for family planning or sexually transmitted infection or pre-natal care, I tell them about cervical cancer screening.”

For the young doctor, not only is this best clinical practice to integrate cervical cancer awareness across MSI Myanmar’s other services, but it is also an intensely personal mission.

“My mother passed away from cervical cancer. I don’t want it to be too late for any other woman in Myanmar.”

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