• Cervical cancer remains a major public health concern in Kenya and is the second most common cancer in women but the leading cause of cancer deaths.
• Experts estimate that the disease can take up to 10 to 15 years to progress into invasive cancer.
WHO has raised concern over the low number of girls fully vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.
The World Health Organization said despite more than 95 per cent of cancer cases resulting from HPV, only one in 10 girls globally are fully vaccinated against the virus.
“Increasing vaccine access could save thousands of lives. Vaccination against HPV, screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer,” the WHO said.
The organisation said HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives; some may be repeatedly infected.
According to WHO, there is limited access to these preventative measures in low-and middle-income countries such as Kenya and cervical cancer is often not identified until it has further advanced and symptoms develop.
“In addition, access to treatment of cancerous lesions such as cancer surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be limited, resulting in a higher rate of death from cervical cancer in these countries,” WHO says.
Kenya launched the HPV vaccine on October 18, 2019 targeting 800,000 girls within a year.
The vaccine against the cancer-causing HPV targets 10-year-old girls.
It is administered in two doses six months apart, at about 9,000 public, private and faith-based facilities countrywide.
January is cervical cancer awareness month.
Cervical cancer remains a major public health concern in Kenya and is the second most common cancer in women but the leading cause of cancer deaths.
Experts estimate that the disease can take up to 10 to 15 years to progress into invasive cancer.
There is need for prevention through screening using various screening tests and subsequent treatment through available options.
According to the National Cancer Institute CEO Dr Alfred Karagu, cervical and breast cancers contribute to almost a quarter (23 per cent) of all cancer-related deaths in the country.