What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is a disease which affects the opening of the womb of a woman. It is caused by cell abnormalities in the lining of the cervix, a result of the Human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the fourth highest cause of cancer in women, and according to the WHO, in Kenya the fatality rate amongst women affected by cervical cancer is 67%. It is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in Kenya.
What are the risk factors/causes of Cervical Cancer?
As stated above, HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, which leads to cell abnormalities in the cervix. HPV is often spread through sexual intercourse, but in most cases, the infection is cleared from the body. In a small proportion of women, the infection remains, creating precancerous conditions which may lead to development of cervical cancer over many years.
Factors associated with the onset of cervical cancer include:
● Infection with HPV e.g. warts.
● Early sex debut.
● Multiple sexual partners.
● Repeated sexually transmitted diseases.
● Health conditions that lower one’s immunity e.g. HIV
How do I prevent Cervical Cancer?
The good news is that cervical cancer can be easily detected in its precancerous state, and cervical cancer is known to be one of the only cancers which can be prevented before it develops using either/both vaccination and screening. Cervical cancer is known to take many years to advance from its precancerous phase, therefore early and regular screening as well as vaccination is encouraged.
It is advised that women seek regular screening through Visual Inspection with Acetic acid and Visual Inspection with Lugol’s iodine (VIA/VILI) or pap smear. They are available at Jacaranda Maternity for women over the age of 21 years.
Cervical cancer is also preventable through the HPV vaccine. It is available for 10 year old girls at Jacaranda Maternity.
For pregnant women, cancer screening can be done during the 1st trimester.
For women who are HIV positive or immuno suppressed, it is advised to have cervical cancer screening at the point of diagnosis and for the screening to continue throughout their lifetime. Testing should take place after every 6 months if lesion found and treated, and annually if negative for cervical cancer lesion.
If screening results in detection at its precancerous state, treatment to prevent cervical cancer will usually involve treatment with cryotherapy, or LEEP when a patient is not eligible for cryotherapy. Other treatment methods include cold knife conization and thermo-coagulation.
Please talk to our Jacaranda Maternity nurse or gynecologist for further information on screening, treatment or vaccination.