Cheaper ways to screen cancer

31 May 2007 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Throwing down the gauntlet: In her augural lecture, Prof Lynette Denny spoke about the means to battle cervical cancer.

At the moment, the incidence of cervical cancer in developing countries are as high as they were in Europe back in the 1950s, even though preventative means have been around for nearly 100 years.

So revealed Professor Lynette Denny during her inaugural lecture, titled Angels With Wet Wings Won't Fly, delivered at the UCT Medical School on 30 May.

The principal investigator on UCT's Khayelitsha screening project, Denny said that the problem lay in the inequity in access to health care. Also, the infrastructure to maintain effective Pap-smear screening programmes is complex and expensive, she said.

'This disease kills women when their role in society, especially women in poor communities, is critically important.'

But all is not lost.

Since 1996, Denny has overseen the screening of 16 000 women in Khayelitsha, and has proven that there are a host of 'cheap, safe, acceptable and feasible alternatives' to the once revered Pap smear.

Denny also talked of a new government policy for the prevention of cervical cancer. However, one obstacle is the 'terrifying' wide gap between drawing up a policy and implementing it.

'But I do believe we have the vision, the will and the capacity to develop a unique African model of health care, which is patient-centred, holistic and dynamic,' she said.

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