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Cervical Cancer can be detected early and treated

<p></p><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/cervical%20cancer%20body.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/> </span></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">
</span></div><p></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Cervical cancer affects the neck of the womb and it is the growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix. Worldwide, this disease ranks as the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women and yet is a preventable disease. Cervical cancer ranks second behind breast cancer in low-income countries. According to WHO 2018, 33 per 100,000 women in Kenya have cervical cancer and 22 per 100,000 die from the disease. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What causes Cervical Cancer</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">All women are at risk for cervical cancer and this disease occurs most often in women over the age of 30. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. Most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer. Other factors that can increase the risk of cervical cancer are intimacy at an early age, multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and cigarette smoking.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Precancerous conditions</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Precancerous conditions of the cervix are changes to cervical cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer. Precancerous conditions are not yet cancer, but there is a higher chance these abnormal changes will become cervical cancer if they aren&#39;t treated. If left untreated, it may take 10 years or more for precancerous conditions of the cervix to turn into cervical cancer, but sometimes this happens in less time. These changes are seen on screening tests conducted by your doctor.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How often should I screen for Cervical Cancer?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Cervical cancer and precancer lesions can be detected through a Pap smear test. For this test, your doctor/nurse looks inside your vagina using a device called a speculum. He or she will then use a small brush to collect cells from the cervix that will be examined in the laboratory. Depending on your age, the doctor will also do a test for a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Alternative tests done in low resource settings include visual inspection with acetic Acid (VIA) or Lugols iodine (VILI). A screening test is not painful and provides information that can be lifesaving. The Government of Kenya regularly conducts nationwide campaigns to encourage screening for cervical cancer. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Women between the ages of 25 to 64 are advised to have Pap smears every three years. However, HIV positive women are urged to undergo the procedure every year. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Early cervical cancer shows no symptoms and therefore screening is of utmost importance. The most common symptoms at presentation are irregular or heavy vaginal bleeding or bleeding after sexual activity. Some women present with a vaginal discharge that may be watery, mucoid or foul smelling. Advanced disease may present with pelvic or lower back pain, bowel or urinary symptoms, such as pressure-related complaints, vaginal passage of urine or stool, are uncommon and suggest advanced disease. In asymptomatic women, cervical cancer may be discovered as a result of cervical cancer screening or incidentally, if a visible lesion is discovered upon pelvic examination.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Treatment for Cervical Cancer</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Once cervical cancer is diagnosed, the next step is to determine the stage. Staging is a system used to describe the spread of a cancer. Cervical cancer is staged upon the results of physical examination and imaging studies. There are several options for treatment of early-stage cervical cancer. Decisions about treatment depend on the stage of the cancer, your age and health. The most common treatment for early-stage cervical cancers is radical hysterectomy. The alternative is radiation therapy which is usually given in combination with chemotherapy.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The widespread use of cervical screening programs has dramatically reduced rates of cervical cancer in the developing world. A well-proven way to prevent cervical cancer is to have testing (screening) to find pre-cancers before they can turn into invasive cancer and vaccination in pre-teens against the virus that causes the cancer. In Kenya, women should be keen to screen for this type of cancer as delayed diagnosis and lack of awareness are the major factors causing women to die from the disease. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>By Dr Khadija Warfa, Consultant Gyn-oncologist at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi​</em></strong></p>

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