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Early Detection and Treatment Saves Lives

TREE clinic team

“Initially I used to have lower abdominal pains but the pain has now gone and I can do farming quite well” says Mary, a coffee farmer with Othaya Cooperative in Nyeri, Kenya. Mary said she heard about a cervical cancer screening event on August 26, 2016 “from Othaya cooperative society members meeting and at our local Church announcements. My friend and I decided to register through the cooperative to attend.”

“I was screened for cervical cancer by the TREE program. I tested positive for VIA and was told the lesion was big. I was scared because as much as the nurse told me it does not necessarily mean I have cancer, I knew that was where they were heading to. You know health professionals never tell you sad news directly. But I knew all was not well because they asked me to go to Nairobi the following week.”

Judy Lukorito, a nurse and TREE study coordinator, emphasized her role is to ensure all women understand the results of the screening and that TREE will support them through treatment. She says, “Whenever we share an abnormal result with our clients, it is our duty as nurses to counsel them to understand that treatment should not be delayed and that we are going to support them through the process.”

TREE, with seed funding from Atlas Coffee, to screen women living in coffee growing communities for cervical cancer and provide treatment. Most women who test positive for VIA or visual inspection with acetic acid are eligible for immediate treatment with cryotherapy. Judy explained that “sometimes we see a lesion that covers most of the cervix or infiltrates into the endocervical canal and we can’t treat using cryotherapy because there is concern that the treatment won’t be effective and the lesion will continue to grow. When the lesion covers more than 75% of the surface of the cervix, we refer the woman for a different type of treatment called Loop Electrosurgical Excision procedure (LEEP).”

“I was referred to the TREE clinic based at Coptic Hospital, in Nairobi, for a biopsy and the results were cancerous,” Mary said. As part of best practice, the biopsy done by the TREE clinic staff to confirm the positive screening test and determine what type of treatment would optimal. Judy explained, “Most women who have abnormal cervical screening tests do not have cervical cancer, but if the lesion has progressed to invasive cervical cancer, we refer women for a TAH” or total abdominal hysterectomy which is a surgery that removes the uterus and cervix and attempts to eliminate the cancerous tissue.

“I was referred to St Mary’s hospital for TAH. It was successful and I thank God for it.” Mary says. She has returned to her home in Nyeri and returned to work “After the TAH my life has improved and I can perform my daily chores”. She encourages donors “please continue supporting women. Keep up the good spirit and God bless you abundantly.”