Cervical cancer becoming number one killer in obstetrics and gynaecology in Ghana: the chicken coming home to roost?

A little over decade ago, I sounded a warning: If as a country we didn’t pay attention to cervical cancer, deaths from cervical cancer were going to overtake maternal mortalities. We were/are spending so much money on preventing maternal mortalities (which is good) but the women would survive and die from cervical cancer. A similar thing is happening in HIV. Women are no longer dying from other ‘opportunistic infections’ seen in HIV because they receive therapy. Unfortunately, we hardly have any national cervical cancer prevention programme, so these HIV positive women are dying from cervical cancer!

Every maternal mortality in Ghana is audited. For many years we have received foreign funds for this. In my hospital when there is a maternal mortality, we sometimes have 4 meetings to discuss it to look at ways we could have prevented it. We fill long audit forms which our district and regional health directorates put pressure on us to submit. They need to submit it nationally. The funding agencies need data that we/they are working. We do not attach the same importance to cervical cancer. We do not audit deaths from cervical cancer. Maybe it is because there are no ‘external funders’ to demand accountability.

We know what is killing our women. We do not need external funding agencies to tell us what to do. If we don’t act, we shall continue to lose our women (mothers, wives, sisters, daughters) to cervical cancer, a very preventable condition. Am I a prophet of doom? Some people call me ‘Cassandra’*.

Attached is a photo someone sent to me two days ago. Midyear report, 2021, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Top 10 mortalities, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Cervical cancer is number 1.

*One of the best known characters in Greek mythology is Cassandra. Gifted with the power to foretell the future, she was also cursed (by Apollo, when she turned down his advances) by having her prophecies fall on unbelieving ears. So Cassandra forever became associated with predictions of doom…

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