Saving Lives from a Preventable Disease: Preventing and Treating Cervical Cancer in Equatorial Guinea
Dr. Manuel Ondo, the technical director of MCD's Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment (CCST) project in Equatorial Guinea.
Cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women in Equatorial Guinea as well as women between the ages of 14 and 44, according to the HPV Information Centre.
Since 2016, MCD Global Health has led the Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment (CCST) project in Equatorial Guinea, funded by Noble Energy EG Ltd (A Chevron Company), to save lives through early cervical-uterine cancer screening and treatment for women as well as to strengthen the country’s health system.
This project uses the single-visit, ‘screen-and-treat’ approach, which is critical in reducing the burden of cervical cancer in low-resource countries. In addition, the CCST project team has conducted outreach, training, and supportive supervision (OTSS) visits with 15 existing staff members at seven health facilities.
Working as the project’s technical director as well as a trainer of trainers, Dr. Manuel Ondo believes that “we must not let our guard down” in the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer in Equatorial Guinea and worldwide.
“It is important to raise awareness of cervical health because this leads to the female population knowing the importance of preventing the human papillomavirus (HPV),” he elaborated. “In addition, it is important to know what the preventable risk factors are for this disease, how it is transmitted, and what should be done to detect and cure it in time.”
Dr. Ondo emphasized the importance of increasing awareness, noting that eradicating HPV and cervical cancer requires a comprehensive approach involving prevention, detection, early treatment, and early immunization of girls and young women.
Dr. Liberato Ava Owono, a physician at the Ebibeyin Hospital clinic, explaining the importance of getting tested
for cervical cancer to women of Micomiseng at the Micomiseng Hospital.
Since the beginning of the CCST project, more than 33,300 women were seen in MCD’s consulting rooms in health facilities across the country; more than 828 cases of VIA-positive lesions were detected that may have turned into cancer; and more than 170 health professionals were trained on different prevention and treatment methods.
Throughout the year, the project team will work with the Ministry of Health’s National Reproductive Health Program to broadcast campaigns on preventing cervical cancer; however, sometimes women may not get screened or treated, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.
While such tragic events make Dr. Ondo feel helpless, he is also reminded how vital educational campaigns are to eradicating deaths caused by cervical cancer. During such campaigns, more women become informed, get screened, and are treated if they have a positive result. These women may have otherwise lost their lives to cervical cancer if it wasn’t for these campaigns.
His passion in helping others began when he was a child in Equatorial Guinea. He observed his father, who is also a doctor, heal people who were sick or injured, and, since then, he dreamed of following in his footsteps. Later, his dream came true when he was awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba.
“I never regret being one,” he said. “For me, it is the best profession where one feels satisfaction when they solve a health problem or save a life.”
Dr. Ondo believes the CCST project is “one of the best projects” that the Equatorial Guinea Ministry of Health has for the results the project has achieved over its tenure.
“For me, MCD is a nongovernmental organization that helps countries improve their health indicators by carrying out social health projects, continuously and sustainably strengthening the health system of each country to reduce morbidity and mortality due to emerging diseases,” he said.
In the spring, the CCST project plans to implement the country’s first-ever HPV immunization campaign for girls and young women to help prevent cervical cancer.
"As a passionate advocate for vaccines and a firm believer in their efficacy in preventing infections, I am thrilled to witness and contribute to the forward momentum of our CCST project as it incorporates the HPV vaccine into our initiatives in Equatorial Guinea,” said, Mariam Bahova, associate program manager at MCD (image at right). “This step presents a significant opportunity to afford girls in Equatorial Guinea a path to a healthy life, free from the threat of cervical cancer."