The role of nurses in the fight against cervical cancer in Cameroon

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Published: 19 Jan 2024
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Dr Manjuh Florence - Mboppi Baptist Hospital, Douala, Cameroon

Dr Manjuh Florence talks to ecancer about the threat of cervical cancer across the 10 regions of Cameroon.

She continues to explain the difficulties presented with treating cervical cancer in Cameroon and the vital part nurses play in treatment and prevention.

The role of nurses in the fight against cervical cancer in Cameroon

Dr Manjuh Florence - Mboppi Baptist Hospital, Douala, Cameroon

Cervical cancer is really a threat to the life of women in Cameroon because when you look at the GLOBOCAN data of 2020 you realise that eight women are being diagnosed with cancer every day. Out of that eight, five of them die. When you look at this data, the GLOBOCAN Report, it’s just from one cancer registry in Cameroon which is found in the political capital and talking mainly about the statistics from one region. So we have ten regions in Cameroon and so if you have to bring data from the ten regions you realise that it is really, really a burden.

Another thing is that many people don’t get to the hospitals to be diagnosed with cancer. So finally they die at home and we don’t even have that information. So when you look at it, cervical cancer is a huge burden. Considering that HIV/AIDS is very common in Cameroon and women who have HIV have six times higher chances of getting cervical cancer, you can imagine how the burden is. It’s very high.

What are other issues with threating cervical cancer in Cameroon?

One good thing with cervical cancer is that it can be diagnosed at a precancerous stage. So in Cameroon we have both public and private health facilities that are doing cervical cancer screening. So when women are diagnosed at the precancerous stages they are able to get treatment. We have thermal ablation, which is very common, and in many of the health facilities, especially in the cities.

But when we get to the rural community they are left out. So that’s the major problem with the rural communities. But we have thermal ablation that we use; we have people who have been trained for the treatment of high-grade precancers, that is what we call LEAP. So people are able to do this.

But when it comes to invasive cancer we have a really big problem since the treatment is radiochemotherapy. We have two radiation units as of now for the whole country and neighbouring countries, one private and one public. But we have had issues with breakdowns with these machines and so it’s really a threat because many who are diagnosed with cancer in Cameroon come at a very late stage and by the time they get to their treatment it’s really just to palliate and it’s not really the best since we have just these two facilities with thousands of people needing treatment.

Why do nurses play an important role?

Nurses really play an important role in the fight of cervical cancer in Cameroon. We have a few number of physicians and we have many other disease burdens that many of the physicians are into. So we have very few physicians who go in for screening.

So in Cameroon nurses have been trained, for example, in the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services where I work. Nurses have been trained to take up this challenge, to do cervical cancer screening, to treat women for pre-invasive cancers, to do biopsies such that women have just a one-stop shop where they come, they do their screening. Not just for the cervix, they can do their breast cancer screening too. If they have any abnormalities it is handled there and they get their results. So nurses are really playing a great role in the fight against cancer in Cameroon.

Equally, we do not only stay with screening, we equally do HPV vaccination of both young boys and young girls to prevent them from these HPV-related cancers. So that is what the nurses are able to do in Cameroon in the fight against cervical cancer.

What role do nurses play in prevention?

Prevention, just like I have mentioned, is the same role that the nurses are doing. So they screen the women, they vaccinate the young boys and girls. Another thing is that they are there even in the rural communities. They go there, they do sensitisation, making sure the women get to know about cervical cancer, what cervical cancer is, how it should be screened and when and where they can go for their screening. So this all left for the nurses to take care of. So in addition to what the nurses are doing, they are out in the community to make sure that people understand. They navigate these clients from the communities to screening and from screening they continue the navigation maybe to treatment for those who are diagnosed at the end.