Vinegar test registers success

27th June 2017
Cervical Cancer Source:The Midweek Sun


By Keletso Thobega -

The vinegar test used to screen for cervical cancer is effective and turnaround for results faster, but few women seem keen to use it. The initiative, rolled out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and spearheaded under the National Cervical Cancer Preventative programme aims to ensure that as many women as possible are screened for cancer and receive treatment before it develops to an advanced stage.

The traditional Pap smear method is more procedural and it takes up to six months for the results but the vinegar test is more immediate. Women were deterred from using the traditional Pap smear method because of the long wait and the fact that it failed in some instances, as some women did not return to collect their results while it was difficult to pin down others.

During the test, a swab with a small amount of raw vinegar (acetic acid) is placed at the mouth of the cervix, called the endorcervix. From observing the changes on the swab, medical personnel can identify changes in the cells (precancerous) and establish whether they are cancerous or not. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Botswana, with more than 14 000 cases of cancer registered in Botswana between 1998 and 2012. According to the National Cancer Registry, 28 percent of people from this number have succumbed to the disease. MoH is still to release the latest statistics. Director for the national programme, Kereng Rammipi, said the vinegar test is offered at more than 80 health facilities across Botswana and encourages women to visit their nearest health facilities to get assistance before the cancer develops to an advanced and life threatening stage.

Spokesperson for Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB) Bontle Modige, noted that reception to the programme is positive but they are only mandated with raising awareness on the method. “We work with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and endorse whatever they deem to be appropriate,” she said. They also encourage cancer screening especially to ensure that one receives early treatment.

Cervical cancer is largely caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that has more than 40 strands. While HPV can be easily diagnosed in women there is no HPV test for men, which makes it easy to spread as there are no signs and symptoms except in cases where there are other signs of sexually transmitted disease. The most fatal types of HPV are said to be HPV 16 and 18 but they can be diagnosed during routine tests.

According to CAB, women can minimise their chances of contracting cervical cancer by including more vegetables and fruits in their diet, quitting smoking, reducing their weight if obese and ensuring that they treat sexually transmitted infections as they occur. Other risk factors include engaging in sexual activity at an early age, multiple concurrent sexual partners and sleeping with a partner who has many partners (increased chance of contracting STIs or HPV).

While there is no conclusive medical research, it is also believed that irritants to the vagina and cervix like douches (chemical agents and products used for hygiene and sexual enhancement purposes) and other objects inserted into the vagina can cause irritation and in turn also lead to cancer.

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