SIPPA and health authorities urge women to test amid growing cases


The number of cervical cancer cases in the country has grown – silently.

SIPPA and health authorities are sounding the alarm calling on women to voluntarily come forward for testing.

The age of vulnerability has lowered. Now women as young as 30 years old are at risk.

The main message is the earlier a case is detected the better the chances of treatment.

With the high rate of cases and low turn-out for testing, the country’s Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) and national referral hospital (NRH) are urging women to break the barrier and voluntarily come forward to clinics, hospitals and SIPPA clinics for testing.

“Last year SIPPA screened only about 77 women,” SIPPA Executive Director Ben Angoa revealed at a press conference last week.

He explains this low turn-out was due to last year’s covid-19 transmission in the country.

However, starting February this year, the number of women turning up for voluntary testing is slowly climbing, he adds.

He says this trend must continue.

“It is confidential, but I must say we have quite a number of diagnoses and the number is increasing. It is really an issue that people of Solomon Islands need to really consider as well as the Government.

“As of this year starting February the number of women seeking Visual Inspection of Cervix (VIA) is slowly increasing, women accessing VIA.

“This programme is really helpful. We are hoping that when women hear about screening, they will definitely seek our available services because it is a serious issue affecting women now in the Solomon Islands.

“Currently we are servicing the elder women from 30 years and above. We don’t have any diagnoses recorded for ages below and above 18,” Angoa said.

He explains that VIA cancer screening is one of SIPPA’s priority programmes which it is helping the Ministry of Health (MHMS) to roll out in ‘unreached populations’ in the rural areas.

“Cancer is on the rise and really affecting our women and the only way that we can help them is doing VIA screening, and what we do now is we start expanding our services to other provinces and SIPPA is training its nurses for them to become confident and specialised on that area of screening.

“Now all our nurse are trained, we have support from IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation), the Niu Vaka strategy, we have other partners like Safe Aid so we have a group of partners that are supporting us to roll out this programme.

“Now only SIPPA is doing this service apart from the Ministry of Health. We are also supporting the government in reaching out to the most unreached population.”

IPPF Director-General Dr Alvaro Bermejo who visited the country last week said the cancer screening service is vital in this region of the world which has higher rates of cervical cancer.

“The new technology really allows us to prevent maternal deaths better and we are delighted to see the progress that they made in the SIPPA’s outreach programme into the communities,” Bermejo said.

NRH CEO Dr George Malefoasi last week also reiterated the call for women across the country to come forward for testing.

Malefoasi explains that there is no mass testing due to cultural barriers, and that testing is done only on women who come forward voluntarily.

He adds that treatments are available, some in country and others can be accessed overseas.

“Cancer treatments available are surgical and chemotherapy.

“Hormonal and radiotherapy is also one but currently not available in the country.

“Earlier we diagnose and intervene, the better the outcome,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website, symptoms of cervical cancer are as follows:

Early-stage cervical cancer symptoms:

-irregular blood spotting or light bleeding between periods in women of reproductive age;

-postmenopausal spotting or bleeding;

-bleeding after sexual intercourse; and

-increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling.

As cervical cancer advances, more severe symptoms may appear including:

-persistent back, leg or pelvic pain;

-weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite;

-foul-smell discharge and vaginal discomfort; and

-swelling of a leg or both lower extremities.

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