MASUM (Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal)

Project – Detection and prevention of cervical cancer

MF Issue Area : Healthcare Provision

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MASUM’s health program was initiated in the late 1980s. It evolved out of a five-year long health education project covering 100,000 people over three Primary Health Centre (PHC) areas in which local facilitators from the community and government health workers imparted health education at the village level. In the mid1990s, MASUM’s intervention extended to training of local health workers in women’s health, especially reproductive and sexual health. The focus was on empowering rural women with the belief that they can best take decisions about their lives, including reproductive and sexual health; thus self-examination with a speculum, torch and mirror was encouraged; healthy and pathological states of the reproductive tract were identified and explained; and early treatment of diagnosed illnesses were made accessible through village based initiatives and through the public sector at all levels – from the sub-center to the state level hospital in Pune city.

Considering that the test itself costs hardly any money, it is criminal neglect to let women suffer from a debilitating, killing, traumatic illness that can drain women emotionally, financially, and physically. Women need not suffer from any illness that can be diagnosed early – this is especially true in terms of making VIA and Pap smears available to all women through quality health care. MASUM’s experience proves that annual tests with 5% acetic acid can diagnose cancerous as well as pre-cancerous conditions, and through early intervention (from colposcopy to cancer related treatment) women’s lives can be saved. It can drastically reduce mortality, morbidity, financial burden, anxiety, and side-effects of invasive treatment.