Cryotherapy is an effective tool to detect and freeze human papillomavirus cells in the cervix before they become cancerous.
Since 2008, the technology has been used in 10 clinics in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, with over 1 000 staff members trained in the equipment’s use.
Gqobana said the existing equipment will now be used throughout the greater Amathole District Municipality, and that more equipment will be bought to ensure the services are offered to women from all districts.
Eastern Cape Clinical Health Services head Nomalanga Makwedini said the equipment was vital for the early detection of cervical cancer for especially rural women.
“This technology has never before been available. Before, detection was only possible by studying the results of pap smears,” she said.
Makwedini added that it was important for all government clinics to have access to cyrotherapy, particularly for those women coming in for family planning.
“This technology is suitable for rural women who often don’t want to undergo pap smears because their privacy is invaded,” said Makwedini.
She said another advantage of cryotherapy is that it doesn’t require a gynaecologist to administer treatment, as any clinic sister or specially trained person can perform it.
Dutch genealogical cancer specialist Prof Robert Soeters said the treatment is targeted specifically at women aged 18 to 33, the most sexually active age category.
He said the Dutch government chose to run the trials in the Eastern Cape because there are many women in the province who don’t know about the importance of testing for cervical cancer.
“The women here have too much on their plates. They have to tend to the land, rear children and look after their husbands. Clinics and hospitals are far away, so even if women do go for pap smears, they often don’t come back for the results,” he explained.
He said with cryotherapy, women are tested and treated at the same time, provided the HPV cells haven’t become cancerous already.