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Cervical cancer ranks as the No 1 cause of female cancer deaths in South Africa every year.

More than 4 000 cervical cancer deaths are recorded in South Africa, with almost 8 000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Right to Care, a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care and treatment services for HIV and TB, said the numbers were too high as this type of cancer was the most preventable.

Right to Care’s Cervical Cancer Programme manager, Dr Bridgette Goeieman, said too many women were being diagnosed too late. “Despite these alarming statistics, cervical cancer is the most preventable cancer.

"It can be effectively treated if detected early.

"But our public healthcare system currently does not have the capacity to roll out screening and treatment programmes at the scale that is required.”

“It is tragic to see women, many of whom are breadwinners for their families, suffering and dying from a disease that is entirely preventable.”

She said they strongly support Cervical Cancer Awareness Month every September in the hope of promoting screening and prevention.

“Other healthcare issues such as hypertension, diabetes and TB swamp our healthcare infrastructure and push cervical cancer prevention too far down the priority list.

"Furthermore, because it is initially symptom-free, women are only being prioritised at healthcare facilities when the symptoms appear – when the cancer is at an advanced stage.”

Among risk factors, Goeieman listedHIV and other STDs. early sexual activity/oral contraception,multiple partners, smoking and a low intake of fruit and vegetables.