Articles

Continuous call to increase sensitization on cervical cancer.

By Jane Beatrice Obila

Cervical cancer, a disease that starts in the cells of the cervix, has led to the death of many girls and women with promising futures in Kenya. World Health Organization (WHO) ranks it as the fourth most common and fatal type of cancer globally.

Recently, we buried our own veteran media personality, Catherine Kasavuli who died after battling this disease. She is just an example of many women who have fought for their lives due to this condition. According to research done by WHO in 2018, 33 per 100,000 women in Kenya have cervical cancer, and 22 per 100,000 die from it.

It is, therefore, our responsibility to create awareness of this deadly yet curable disease when detected in its early stages. We should not only do this in January which is a cervical cancer awareness month but in other months as well we should strive to make this part of our conversations and dialogue.

The aforementioned organization links cervical cancer to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, as its main cause. HPV can be prevented through vaccination and is also treatable when diagnosed earlier.

A campaign to get girls of 10-14 years vaccinated against HPV has been launched in the country. According to WHO, these girls are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer because they are sexually active at that stage. The administration of the vaccine is currently underway in both public and private health facilities.

However, during the launch of a cervical cancer campaign to raise awareness of the disease in Kisumu County on Monday, Kisumu County Executive Committee Member in charge of medical services Dr. Gregory Ganda decried the poor uptake of the HPV vaccine by girls of the age group indicated above leading to the expiry of the available vaccines.

We should be bothered by the revelation that the uptake is low. What could be the issue behind the low uptake? the government in collaboration with the Ministry of Health has been providing free cervical cancer screening services in public health hospitals but sadly, low turnouts are reported as well. Without creating awareness of these services, most people will not know of their existence.

Risk factors for developing cervical cancer are, having HIV, having multiple sex partners, smoking, and having multiple full-term pregnancies among others.

HIV has been taken as the main risk factor for developing cervical cancer. According to the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), countries with high rates of HIV have over 50% of cervical cancer cases reported among women living with the virus. They are six times more vulnerable to developing cervical cancer than those without HIV.

In Kenya, according to the Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey of 2018, the prevalence of HIV in women is at 6.6% which is twice that in men. It is high time we encourage HIV-positive women to get screened for cervical cancer. It is recommended that people free from HIV get screened after every five years and annually for those living with HIV because their immune system is weak and hence vulnerable to other kinds of illnesses.

Our girls and women should be informed and educated about the facts of cervical cancer, the HPV virus, and the screening and vaccination processes to help in the prevention of the killer disease in Kenya.

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