At Marie Stopes International (MSI), we pride ourselves on our commitment to women’s reproductive health. As a global leader in family planning, we often highlight our outreach work that serves rural and hard-to-reach communities, our programs that empower women and girls, and our expertise in safe abortion and post-abortion care.
Many of our programs also provide general health screenings for women who would not otherwise have access to basic care. We work hard to make sure these services are high quality, affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. One example we’re highlighting this February to mark Cancer Awareness Month is MSI’s contribution to ending cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among women in developing countries, where over 80% of global deaths from cervical cancer occur. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly hard hit, with an estimated 92,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer occurring annually.
Cervical cancer is largely preventable due to slow development, early detectability of pre-cancers and ease of treatment. Recent evidence proves the safety and efficacy of visual inspection with acetic acid for detection and cryotherapy for treatment in low-resource settings. Despite these proven screening and treatment methods, detection rates are still low in developing countries.
Harnessing partnership and innovation to increase access
Since 2012, MSI has led a consortium of partners - including Population Services International, International Planned Parenthood Federation and the Society for Family Health - to end this preventable disease. Known as the Cervical Cancer Screening & Preventative Therapy (CCS&PT) partnership, MSI and partners have been working to increase the number of cervical cancer screening services and treatment availability in underserved communities in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In line with World Health Organization guidelines, screenings are targeted at women ages 30-49, the group most at risk of developing cervical cancer.
One way that MSI has been mentoring and building the capacity of providers is through an innovative smart phone app called SEVIA. Created by Queens College in Canada, SEVIA uses - with client consent - smart phones to capture images of a client’s cervix. Using basic text messaging technology, the service provider sends the photo, along with a diagnosis and treatment plan, to an expert reviewer. The expert then confirms or revises the diagnosis and treatment plan. MSI piloted SEVIA in Sierra Leone in 2016, and found that it is a cost effective and efficient alternative to intermittent and expensive physical monitoring. We are looking to launch an extended pilot in multiple countries this year.
As we look forward, MSI hopes to continue to provide these vital services to the underserved women who need them most.