I run the Himalayan Women’s Health Project which has been in operation in Ladakh since 2009 and has conducted annual major screening, treatment and education camps in some of the most remote areas of the North Indian Himalayan region. Its main focus is on the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, as well as to provide gynecological and pregnancy-related care to the women of Ladakh.
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in India and the disease kills more women in India than in anywhere else in the world. We have found high rates of cervical pre-cancer in this isolated and remote area. The project has adopted a single-visit approach for the detection and treatment using a simple and cost effective method of screening known as Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA). This involves applying a weak vinegar solution to the cervix and observing the changes that occur. Women who have the visible pre-cancerous (cervical cells) changes then undergo a more thorough examination known as colposcopy, and are offered treatment under local anesthesia if necessary.
Another important aspect of the work of HWHP is to educate local women about various aspects of women’s health, as well as to train local healthcare workers to perform the screening techniques. This will ensure continuity in the screening process, and eventually, we hope to train enough healthcare workers to be able to continue and expand the program.
In 2020 we will be expanding the program to benefit women in Nepal as well.