First Lady joins the fight against cancer

WHILE people are concentrating on HIV-Aids as the biggest killer, cervical cancer has fast-tracked and is set to catch up with the pandemic.

This is the message by UN ambassador for reproductive health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and one of the first ladies Thobeka Mabhija.

They were speaking during the launch of the Phila Ma campaign at Amaoti in Inanda yesterday.

Tshabalala-Msimang and Madiba-Zuma are leading the campaign, which is aimed at preventing cervical cancer. Mabhija. is the vice- chairperson of the African First Ladies Forum Against Breast andCervical Cancer.

Cervical cancer is regarded as the second most common cancer in women globally and the leading cause of death in developing countries.

This project follows the third Stop Cervical Cancer Conference, which was held in Cape Town in July.

The African First Ladies Forum Against Breast and Cervical Cancer was unveiled at this conference.

Addressing the women, Mabhija said as the mother of the nation, she had taken it upon herself to concentrate mostly on creating awareness about the importance of living a healthy life, especially among people in rural areas.

"User-friendly screening rooms at clinics are also important to fight the stigma as this is the most private screening of a woman's body," said Mabhija.

Statistics reveal that women under 40 years of age are increasingly developing cervical cancer unnecessarily, because they do not go for screening until it is too late.

On Tuesday, hundreds of women from Amaoti were shocked to learn for the first time that cervical cancer was the cause of the death of many young women after HIV and Aids.

Almost all the women screened had never been screened for cervical cancer before.

Mantaba Kobani, a 60-year-old mother of seven, was also screened for the first time.

Tshabalala-Msimang urged the women not to take it for granted that they were free of cervical cancer, because symptoms of the disease become visible very late.

MEC for health Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the campaign was launched in the area because of the high number of unemployed people.