Seventeen out of 61 women whose samples were sent for further tests for cervical cancer were diagnosed with cervical cancer, after undergoing screening. This information was shared by Dr Mackenzie Sitobata, the Coordinator of the Cervical Cancer Elimination Program.

The screening took place from 2022 to December 2023, covering 6,600 women in Vila and Luganville clinics, with additional outreach efforts to islands in the provinces.

Since the establishment of the Cervical Cancer Elimination Project, 1,045 cases of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the virus causing cervical cancer, were detected among the screened women. Dr Sitobata explained that it is important to note that a positive result does not confirm cervical cancer but indicates the presence of HPV, putting women at risk.

He also clarified that positive cases undergo further examination and treatment to assess the risk and potential abnormalities, enabling early intervention.

The project’s objective is early prevention, detection, and screening. The World Health Organisation  (WHO) sets aside January as the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. According to Dr Sitobata, the team here focuses on learning about cervical cancer, its prevention, and encourages women to undergo screening.

Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer, causing alarming numbers of deaths, while in Vanuatu, cervical cancer ranks as the second deadliest cancer after breast cancer.

The Project Coordinator expressed concern over the “alarming” statistics, highlighting the importance of addressing the issue to prevent the loss of lives, particularly mothers.

The cervical cancer project, launched in 2022, operates clinics in Port Vila and Luganville. Free services are provided, targeting mothers aged 30 to 54, who are identified as a high-risk group.

Due to limited resources for treatment locally, fundraising efforts are organised to send patients overseas for advanced treatments.