Cervical cancer in Ghana

// 21 June 2008

I don’t really have anything to say about this description of both treatment and lack of detection and treatment of cervical and breast cancer in Ghana. But it has to be read:

This hospital is one of just two with cancer centres, and between them they serve a country with a population of 23 million…

But this treatment – low dose brachytherapy – is not pleasant.

Radioactive material is inserted into the cervix via tubes, which are held in place with metal gynaecological devices.

The doctor showed me the equipment and it looked distinctly uncomfortable.

But it was worse than I thought.

For this treatment the patient must stay alone in this room for 50 consecutive hours.

Comments From You

Shea // Posted 22 June 2008 at 11:44 am

This sounds particularly dire, even by African standards. Although did you know it is common in Africa to sterilise high risk equipment such as scalpels with pressure cookers? No wonder the life expectancy is so low. Just think if this chickenhawk government took OUR money that it decided to spend on the cold war throwback Trident and spent it on something actually likely to increase world peace and security, like decent healthcare and clean water for the world’s poorest twenty countries, we would all be safer and better off. Who was it that said, men will be living on the moon before we cure cancer?

Jess // Posted 23 June 2008 at 1:17 pm

The treatment described here is still used to treat locally advanced cervical cancer in the UK and is considered quite effective when combined in chemotherapy. Unfortunately cervical cancer is the biggest cause of death from cancer in young women in less developed countries, primarily due to the absence or poor coverage of cervical screening. In addition, with all the hype about the cervical cancer vaccine that is now available, the inability of poorer women accross the world to access this expensive vaccine is a disgrace.

Shea // Posted 24 June 2008 at 8:00 am

But not for fifty consecutive hours surely?

I don’t want to be pedantic, but I believe ovarian cancer is a greater killer of women in the majority world. I’m willing to be corrected though.

Jess // Posted 24 June 2008 at 3:08 pm

Yes, internal radiation (brachytherapy) can be used continuously for many days at a time in either short bursts or continuously. Please see:


I am afraid I have to disagree with you Shea, in the UK cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in young women (under 35) after breast cancer. In poorer countries, because of the lack of pap smear screening it is, unfortunately, the leading cause of cancer death.

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