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CAUSE FOR ALARM

Cervical cancer most common in Africa, says WHO

Identified as the second most common cancer in Africa, kills 311,000 women yearly

In Summary

• Rates of cervical cancer are six times higher in Africa than in North America. 

• Only 16 per cent of women of reproductive age in Kenya have undergone cervical cancer screening against a target of 70 per cent. 

High-risk types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer. /AGENCIES
High-risk types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer. /AGENCIES
Image: FILE

Cancer kills 90 Kenyans every day, according to the World Health Organisation. 

This translates to 32,900 deaths per year.

Cervical cancer is the most common in 20 countries, 19 of them in Africa, WHO disclosed during a consultative meeting. 

It is the second most common cancer in Africa and kills 311,000 women annually. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease.

A May 13-15 WHO consultation meeting in Congo attended by the academia, civil society and UN partners agreed that a new global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in  Africa is paramount.

Recommendations by WHO

Girls between nine and 14 can be vaccinated. WHO recommends routine cervical cancer screening for all women between 30 and 49 and early treatment for those with precancerous lesions.

The participants also suggested an elimination threshold of fewer than four cases per 100,000 people as well as to the 90/70/90 targets.

This means that 90 per cent of women should be fully vaccinated by the time they reach 15 years. Seventy per cent should be screened with a high precision test by age 35.

“Only 16 per cent of women of reproductive age in Kenya have undergone cervical cancer screening against a target of 70 per cent,” the government said.

“In many parts of Africa, cervical cancer isn’t identified or treated until it has reached an advanced stage,” WHO's Africa regional office Joseph Cabore said.

Cultural and socioeconomic factors were said to limit cancer screening for early detection that should be taken into account.

Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Thomas Mutie raised the alarm over the number of women seeking screening and called for more women to show up. 

“Screening helps find precancerous changes that can be treated to prevent cancer from developing,” Mutie said.

He said everyone, including men, has a key role to play in the treatment.

(Edited by R.Wamochie)