Cervical cancer is one of the deadliest cancers afflicting women worldwide. Every day over 1,450 women are diagnosed with this preventable disease; more than half will not survive. PINCC is fighting to change this in Africa, India, and Latin America. We train medical personnel and create sustainable programs, educate the community with our Community Outreach and Education program (COE), and ensure the work will expand with our Train the Trainers program. We even help women who've been diagnosed with cervical cancer. To find out where PINCC is now, visit our Calendar.
Training Medical Personnel and Creating Sustainability
PINCC takes basic gynecology equipment and a staff of volunteer doctors and counselors to remote and underserved areas in Central America, East Africa, and India. We provide sensitive, culturally integrated training and education, in the local language, to both patients and health care workers.
PINCC trains local health care workers in gynecology examination, visual screening with acetic acid (VIA), Cryotherapy (freezing of pre-cancer cells) and LEEP (electrosurgical treatment). Our protocol was developed by the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention. It has been proven to be both effective and affordable, and avoids the problems of expense, poor results, and loss to follow-up of Pap-based systems.
Our services are offered to clinics or hospitals (sites) that commit to establishing a cervical cancer prevention program over a period of 1 to 2 years, providing medical staff with continuing training and proctoring, and supplying the needed clinic time and materials to sustain an ongoing cervical cancer screening program.
PINCC's team of volunteers return every six months to each site, to follow up treated women and continue the training of health workers. Once a site's training is complete and can sustain the program on its own PINCC donates Cryotherapy equipment, LEEP equipment, and other materials, thus enabling local providers to continue and spread the work. The resulting programs can provide 1000-3000 screening exams per year.
There is no charge to either the agencies we visit or their clients. It costs us only about $15 to see and treat a woman in Central America, Africa, and India. For the local health system, the cost per woman whose life is saved by the program we establish is close to zero, when one considers the avoided cost of Paps, repeat appointments, operating costs, treatment of cervical cancer, and hospital support of women during their painful deaths.
PINCC partners with hospitals, universities, medical schools and government agencies in several countries to promote awareness, affect policy and extend the implementation of these techniques. We regularly consult with other agencies working in the field, attend conferences, and follow relevant literature, so we can update and add new techniques as they develop.
Community Outreach and Education program (COE)
Launched May 2011, PINCC developed it's Community Outreach and Education program (COE) to survey three groups of people: community women, community healthcare workers, and nurses. After evaluating gaps in knowledge about cervical cancer, PINCC has used this information to develop targeted educational material, called "flip-books", for training health outreach workers, and reaching our frequently semi-literate audience. The pictorial flip-books have simple language and illustrations, to teach women about their bodies, and about HPV and cervical screening.
If the women in the communities we serve understand that this terrible disease can be prevented by early screening and treatment, they will seek care at the centers where we train, and become advocates to their families and friends. The women will inform and empower women about their bodies, the causes of cervical cancer and other problems, and how important it is to be examined. The women will also learn what to expect, allay their fears, and puncture some of the myths surrounding women's care. The COE project will secondarily be used to get a better understanding of how much is known about cervical cancer and its prevention, and measure PINCC's impact on community health.
Train the Trainers programs
Launched in 2011, this program is training doctors to teach their colleagues visual screening with acetic acid (VIA) and Lugol's Iodine (VILI), Cryotherapy (freezing of pre-cancer cells) and LEEP (electrosurgical treatment), using PINCC's protocols. The program supports trainers in each stage of training, providing quality assurance as they become able to open new areas of see-and-treat cervical cancer prevention.
In El Salvador, the Ministry of Health (MINSA) is training 16 doctors to teach nurses, midwives, and other doctors throughout the huge San Salvador metropolitan area. Peru's Pathfinders International is likewise using their trained gynecologists and midwives to spread the technique, both in Lima and other areas where they have clinics. PINCC is planning to extend the collaboration to other countries in South America where Pathfinders International work.
In Nicaragua, PINCC has worked with the professors of gynecology at both the University in Leon and in Managua's Berta Calderon Hospital, who are now training residents and other doctors to do see-and-treat cervical cancer prevention in many areas of the country.
Helping women diagnosed with cervical cancer
PINCC is training medical people to do both screening and treatment of pre-cancerous cervical lesions, which are called dysplasia. By finding these slow growths, caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), and treating them, we stop cancer from developing. With the procedures we teach, 85% to 95% of women can be cured. With our see-and-treat methods, it can be done the same day. We provide the equipment to our trained hospitals and clinics, so they can continue to provide this prevention.
Unfortunately, finding a woman with invasive cervical cancer is all too common; we find several every year. It is so sad to find a mother or grandmother, otherwise strong and healthy, who will die in her 40's or 50's (even as young as 30's!) because there was no chance for her to get screening before we came.
Once cervical cancer has invaded, we cannot treat her, as it requires major surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. We always find out where women can receive treatment for invasive cancer. It's often a long journey, usually to the capitol. If she cannot afford it, PINCC provides the travel funds. The doctors at the medical centers where we train provide follow-up care to be sure she is properly referred.
In cases where the cancer is too advanced for treatment, our centers are encouraged to establish palliative care protocols, to give terminal care to the woman and her family. In the Kitale, Kenya hospital where we completed training last year, they now have 15 women in the palliative care ward, dying of this terrible disease. Centers usually see an increase in fatal cases when their screening programs start, identifying women who would previously have died at home in their villages, unaware of what caused their suffering. Once the word spreads about what the disease is, and how easily it can be prevented, women start coming in large numbers to be seen.