In late August 2013, I had the opportunity of visiting and working in Goma Congo DRC.
I worked at the Heal Africa Hospital Goma. (www.healafrica.org) I was there to teach the local Consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Dr Justin Lussy about using colposcopy for cervical cancer screening.
Unfortunately, in the whole of Congo there is no form of screening tests for cervical cancer in women. This is also the case with many developing countries.
Here in Australia women are offered a free screening test in form of the Pap smear every 5 years. As a result, cervical cancer in Australia occurs at a rate of 6.7 per 100 000 which is much lower than countries such as Congo where the rate of such cancer is about 10 times that of Australia.
Furthermore, over half of the women who contract the cancer will die since the cancer is often found at a late stage of development because of the lack of screening programs. For example, between 1981 and 1990, data from Nairobi Hospital records showed that cervical cancer accounted for 70%–80% of all cancers found in the female genital tract (uterus, cervix and ovaries) and 8%–20% of all cancers.
During my visit, together with the Dr Justin Lussy and the clinic Nurse Rita, we set up the first ever colposcopy clinic in Goma where the population is approximately 20 million.
We attracted attention from the United Nations and we were interviewed on the UN radio. This hopefully will bring more attention to this devastating disease in Congo. Now that Dr Lussy has been trained, he will continue the screening on his own. I will continue to review the data he collates from the clinic and offer any help via email. I hope to be there again soon.
I wish to acknowledge the supporters who donated some consumable equipment towards the setting up of this vital screening program. These include Pindara Hospital (www.pindarprivate.com.au), donors through Health and Development Aid Abroad (www.hada.org.au) and donors through AusHeal (www.ausheal.org.au).
I have posted some photos of the clinic and a refugee camp, which I visited as well.