Cervical cancer screening done by government social health workers helps women in smaller settlements to get crucial care, reports abcug.hu.
Three times more women die of cervical cancer in Hungary than the EU average, although if the illness is diagnosed in time the chances of recovery are very good. Serious cases are often discovered too late to be cured effectively. Women between the age of 35 and 65 are advised to be screened every three years. Although the National Public Health and Medical Officer Service (NPHMOS) notifies such women in writing, many miss the screening, because there is no nearby gynecologist or they are afraid of the smear test. To tackle the problem the Hungarian government introduced the concept of védőnő (health visitor) doing the screening nationwide in 2013. Védőnő do not diagnose women, they just do the test and forward the sample to a lab. The concept is quite popular in smaller settlements where it obviates the need to travel to the nearest town to visit a gynecologist.
According to a 2007 survey, it is mostly under-educated women and those who declare themselves poor who only visit a gynecologist when they have a symptom. Asked why they do not seek regular screening, women replied that they do not think it is important and they cited lack of time. Social public health workers contacted by abcug.hu said reasons given for non-attendance are that gynecologists are usually too far away, there are only a few buses daily to the nearest town and often it is not possible to get an appointment outside working hours.
According to Klára Sántha who has been working as a védőnő for 33 years in the former industrial town of Ózd in northern Hungary, she has only had a positive reception since she has been doing screenings. “Trust is maybe the most important part of this job.” Sántha told abcug.hu. “Many women come to me for screening who grew up as my patient. The way I see it, it is more comfortable to them this way than visiting an unknown gynecologist.” Upon successfully taking the exam to do screenings, Sántha received all the equipment free of charge.
Tímea Tóth, a védőnő in the town Verpelét in central Hungary, decided to participate in screenings in 2009. According to Tóth, as a védőnő there are not many means of professional advancement, but it seemed to her a good way of improving and allowed her to extend care to more people.
Since completing the course, Tóth has spoken at conferences and even helped in developing a textbook. She says older women who are not active sexually often think they do not need screening. “There was a woman who told me that there is no way she is going to come to me, then I told her how the screening takes place and that she can make up her mind even before the screening, then she came to me two weeks later.” To promote screenings, Tóth visited many homes and gave lectures in the town. Two of her patients have been diagnosed with cancer and both recovered.
“In these cases it was indeed imperative that we discovered [the illness] in time,” Tóth said “It makes me feel very good that I somehow contributed to their recovery.”
According to Mrs. Margit Csontos Simon, védőnő of Ceglédbercel, it is much more than a simple screening. Women tell her their problems and she gives them advice. Csontos Simon visits homes to promote the screenings and has run an ad on the local TV channel and on Facebook. “Over two years I have screened more than 300 women, and 80 percent of them came voluntarily,” she told abcug.hu.