• April 18, 2024
  • Last Update April 18, 2024 6:55 PM
  • Nairobi

Women urged to take up early screening to arrest cervical cancer

Women urged to take up early screening to arrest cervical cancer


Monday, March 25, 2024

KNA by Bethsheba Abuya

Women have been urged to go for regular screening for cervical cancer to enable early detection of the disease and increase chances of survival.

Medics affirm that early detection and treatment arrests cervical cancer and affected women are able to overcome it and be able to lead normal healthy lives.

Addressing Science and Health journalists at a Nairobi Hotel, Dr Mary Wangai, the Technical Advisor Kilele Health Association revealed that cancer is a global burden and women are the most vulnerable.

She reiterated that cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and it takes multiple re-infections for one to get the disease, whereas in other cases the virus clears on its own.

Dr Wangai said, in Kenya, about 5,200 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed yearly and about 3,200 women lose their lives to cancer annually.

“Cancer of the cervix is the leading cause of deaths (among various cancer types) in the country yet it is the most preventable type of cancer since it takes 10-15 years for it to fully manifest in the body,” explained Dr Wangai.

She pointed out that cervical cancer has no noticeable symptoms and all women are at risk of getting the disease although women between the ages of 35-49 are highly exposed to an increased probability to be infected for they are sexually active.

“Cervical Cancer can be prevented through early detection and timely treatment because the trend can be reversed given that the disease takes up to 15 years to be full blown,” said Dr Wangai.

The disease, she says, can also be prevented by encouraging the HPV vaccination targeting 10–14-year-old girls, periodic screening for all women between 25 to 65 years, pap smears, safe sexual practices and limiting the number of sexual partners.

She elaborated the three screening methods available namely HPV DNA test which checks for the virus that can cause precancerous cell changes, the pap smear (Pap Test) -checks for pre cancers on the cervix that can be treated and the Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) test which inspects the cervix using acetic acid to identify abnormal changes on the cervix.

Meanwhile, the media has been urged to address myths and misconceptions surrounding cervical cancer by informing the public that having cervical cancer is not a death sentence and that the disease is preventable through screening and detection.

Ms Benda Kithaka, the Executive Director Kilele Health Association, said the media has a role to play in demystifying the real causes of cervical cancer through the provision of evidence-based information to debunk myths and combat disinformation.

Kithaka pointed out the common myths around the disease to be; that cancer is a curse, it affects only older women, it is a death sentence, that the HPV vaccine causes infertility, and that it spreads genetically among others.

“As the media, you should be at the forefront in de-stigmatising the disease by telling stories on the positive end, highlighting the cancer survivors to reduce stigma and fear associated with the disease,” said Kithaka.

Kithaka who doubles up as the Chair, Africa Cancer Research and Control ECHO Steering Committee revealed that the survival rate for cervical cancer in Africa stands at 50percent while in the developed countries it is at 80 percent.

“The low rate in Africa is attributed to poor awareness, fear and stigma, late diagnosis, limited access to treatment due to the high cost among other reasons,” said Kithaka.

Kithaka stated that once the media provides accurate information about the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and eligibility, more girls will show up for vaccination and more women will present themselves early for screening and thus many women and girls will survive and lead healthy lives.

Judy Wanyoike, a 2012 cancer survivor called upon women to present themselves early for screening adding that with early detection and appropriate treatment chances of surviving are high.

“I implore women to take up screening early. Personally, I wouldn’t have lost my womb if I had had medical intervention in good time,” narrated Wanyoike.

Cervical Cancer is caused by a persistent infection with one or more of the high- risk types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV 16 and 18). It occurs in the cells of the opening of the womb-cervix.

Some of the symptoms include backache, pelvic pain, abnormal vaginal discharge that has a foul odour, heavy vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles or after a pelvic examination to mention but a few.

Data from the National Cancer Control Programme indicates that at the moment nine women die daily in Kenya from cervical cancer.

This figure has the chance of coming down when stakeholders provide a platform to discuss cervical cancer prevention, advocate for availability, affordability and quality of cervical cancer screening and treatment.

Courtesy; KNA

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