Meet a Nurse Providing Lifesaving Cervical Cancer Prevention in Africa

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February 4, 2016

Today, on World Cancer Day, we honor women like Gracious Dithabang, a global health leader in Botswana who provides low-cost, effective approaches for counseling, screening, and treatment to prevent cervical cancer. Her efforts and hard work improve and save lives in her community and beyond.

Picture of a nurse in Botswana

Nurse Gracious Dithabang is a role model for cervical cancer prevention and treatment skills in Botswana. Photo courtesy Jhpiego

Gracious Dithabang is nurse at the Bontleng Clinic, just outside Botswana’s capital, and she is critical to her community: She is the only health care provider on staff with the knowledge and skills to help prevent cervical cancer.

Affectionately known as “Mma D,” she has worked for the past 7 years around the country, pioneering Botswana’s National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program. In a country where women die of cervical cancer at nearly twice the rate of the second leading cause (breast cancer), Dithabang’s methods are lifesaving.

The traditional screening for cervical cancer, the Pap smear, requires lab work and follow-up visits, a process which isn’t very effective in Botswana, especially rural areas. Dithabang utilizes a simpler strategy – called Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA), more commonly referred to as, ‘see and treat.’ By being able to safely and quickly detect precancerous lesions of the cervix, treatment for affected women can begin more immediately, often on the day it’s discovered.

“We introduced the program to the women and they liked it very much,” she explained. “Women are concerned about their lives.”

‘See and treat’ is being expanded to reach more women throughout the country. Botswana’s Ministry of Health is being assisted in the effort by a Jhpiego-supported project funded by PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

There isn’t a single one of us whose lives haven’t been touched by cancer somehow. Whether it’s a battle we’ve faced ourselves or supporting a loved one, cancer impacts us all. We rely on our medical care-givers – the nurses and doctors who walk the path with us.

Picture of cervical cancer screening

Batswanan women gather at a health facility for a Jhpiego-supported group counseling session on cervical cancer screening. Photo courtesy of Jhpiego

Take Action Challenge

You can read more about the work of Gracious Dithabang and Jhpiego, and take this quiz to see how much you know about cervical cancer.

Jhpiego brings high-quality health care to women and families wherever they are. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about their work around the world. Share this article for #WorldCancerDay to honor women like Gracious Dithabang.

Lead photo of a girl in a treatment center in Botswana, courtesy of Jhpiego

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