Watch: A journey from Malawi to Kenya for cervical cancer radiotherapy

A new documentary follows two Malawian women seeking cancer treatment unavailable in Malawi.

Malawian women during a chemotherapy session at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.

Malawi 2022 © Diego Menjibar

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide. It kills hundreds of thousands of women each year, despite being preventable, detectable, and treatable. 

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is considered the first-line treatment for cervical cancer, but it is not always accessible. In the landlocked country of Malawi in East Africa, which has the second-highest mortality rate in the world, over 4,000 Malawian women fall sick with cervical cancer each year. Nearly 3,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2020 alone. 

In partnership with Malawi’s Ministry of Health, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs a cervical cancer project based in Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the southern district of Blantyre. The project focuses on providing effective, feasible, and high-impact care to prevent and treat cervical cancer through a comprehensive program that includes screening, consultations, specialized surgery, and palliative care for advanced-stage patients.  

Destination: Radiotherapy

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Two radiotherapy projects (non-MSF) aim to be operational by 2024. In the meantime, MSF has developed a temporary referral system to send some cervical cancer patients to Kenya for radiotherapy. Since 2022, 62 women with cervical cancer have traveled from Malawi to Kenya to receive treatment.

Chimwemwe and Nessie are two of the women who underwent treatment for cervical cancer in Kenya. They share stories of the journey to healing in the new documentary, Destination: Radiotherapy.