Cervical Cancer Screening Project | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Cervical Cancer Screening

See and Treat Clinic

Photo of Martha Sesay-hospital matron, Dr. Amber Lin, Dr. Sacha Kang Chou
Pictured from left to right: Martha Sesay (hospital matron), Dr. Amber Lin, Dr. Sacha Kang Chou

Little is known about rates of HPV/cervical cancer in Sierra Leone. Estimates of cervical cancer rates/deaths are limited by lack of data. In 2014, the WHO found cervical cancer to be the leading cause of cancer mortality among women. In 2018, cervical cancer accounted for 8.1% of all reported cancer deaths, despite only accounting for 7.2% of all reported cancer incidences. There is no knowledge of the rates of HPV infection in Sierra Leone, as testing for the virus is mostly unavailable in the country. However, the HPV information center reports a general prevalence of 4.3% of high-risk HPV strains among women in the West Africa region.

Photo of VIA screening room
Screening Room

Elimination of Cervical cancer is a global initiative. However, in Sierra Leone there has been no established screening program, nor an active HPV vaccine program. These limitations mean little to no progress on decreasing rates of cervical cancer in the country.

Photo of a pre-screening class to educate women about cervical cancer, the importance of screening, and what to expect
Pre-screening classes to educate women about cervical cancer, the importance of screening, and what to expect

City Garden Clinic in Makeni, under the guidance of Dr. Erdi Huizenga and with the support of Smarter Hospital Foundation, began a pilot See and Treat program in 2019, using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) and thermal ablation therapy.

In February 2021, PIH Health’s Dr. Sacha Kang Chou joined the FM residency trop med team to help jumpstart the See and Treat cervical cancer screening program. City Garden Clinic made an announcement on the “Good Morning Salone” radio program to offer free cervical cancer screening for 1 week to women ages 25-64.

Dr. Lin (bottom right) and Dr. Abueg (middle row, 3rd from the left) with World Hope International and the Cervical Cancer screening trainees
Dr. Lin (bottom right) and Dr. Abueg (middle row, 3rd from the left) with World Hope International and the Cervical Cancer screening trainees

During this week, the hospital was able to screen 225 women, hailing from Makeni, Yele, Freetown, and other cities. Of the 225 women, approximately 30% of women had positive screenings and were treated onsite. Four cases of severe dysplasia/overt cervical cancer were found; one of which was subsequently admitted to the hospital and successfully received a hysterectomy.

In February 2022, the FM residency trop med team was able to assist the World Hope International Organization in training 12 local doctors and nurses from 3 hospitals in the Bombali District to perform VIA and thermal ablation as needed.  Dr. Sacha Kang-Chou again provided virtual support.  During the trainings another 179 women were screened in the Makeni region.  The goal is to have a weekly screening offered at City Garden Clinic, which will continue to be supported by the FM residency trop med team both virtually and during the regular trips.