Cervical cancer is the second commonest form of cancer in Kenya and according to World Health Organization(WHO) in every 100,000 women 33 have the disease.
Dr Catherine Nyongesa, a Clinical Oncologist at the Kenyatta National Hospital says the prevalence of Cervical Cancer is very high and most deaths related to the disease occur due to late diagnosis and lack of awareness among women.
“Many women are not aware that Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because it gives you a period of 10-20 years where you have an opportunity of getting diagnosed before the virus gets to the cancer stage,” she stated
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus(HPV) which is sexually transmitted.
Additionally, the National Cancer Treatment guidelines recommend that any sexually active woman should go for cervical cancer screening but majority are yet to undergo the test.
“The recommended age group for Cervical Cancer screening is between the age of 24-49 but still if you look at this age group no one has gone for the screening,” Dr Nyongesa said
Dr Nyongesa adds that 80% of all the women have HPV virus but most of them clear the virus from their body within a few years.
“By the age of 50years 80% of the virus is usually gone,” she said
However, for some women the virus may persist and lead to cervical cancer but this could be due to several risk factors such as; having multiple sexual partners, if you are HIV positive, smoking or if you have genital tract infections.
Some of the common symptoms of Cervical cancer include; abnormal bleeding(heavy and prolonged periods beyond the normal days), having a discharge which can be watery or blood stained, and pain during intercourse.
Dr Nyongesa suggests that women should maintain a high level of genital hygiene to help fight the Human Papilloma virus as well as regular screening.
“If you go for your first cervical cancer screening and it comes out negative you can stay and wait for another five years before you go for another test. Screening should be done annually for vulnerable women such as those with a positive HIV status,” she advised