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Cancer: Women advised to seek early screening

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 – Health experts are urging women in Kenya to seek early cervical cancer screening and also get vaccinated against the disease.

Sub-Saharan Cervical Cancer Group Member Dr Lucy Muchiri advised women between nine and 26 years to take advantage of the cervical cancer vaccine.

“Routine vaccination with three doses of the same Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for females from 9 to 12 years. The exact age of primary immunisation may however vary from country to country to fit best with the available infrastructure,” she said.

She urged women above 26 years to seek for guidance from health care providers to decide when immunisation is most appropriate.

Dr Muchiri spoke during the release of recommendations for application of the HPV vaccine during a workshop in Nairobi.

The workshop came at a time when health indicators showed that cervical cancer was the most common form afflicting women in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 200 million women aged above 15 years at potential risk.

However Kenya was even at a worse situation since it does not have a national cervical cancer screening programme in place.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 71,000 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually and approximately 62,000 deaths registered each year,” said Dr Muchiri.

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The World Health Organisation estimates that every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer in the world while in Kenya, over 65 per cent of the women who develop the disease die.

During the workshop, health experts heard that over 55 per cent of women with cervical cancer present themselves to a healthcare provider when the cancer has progressed to stage III disease where surgical intervention or radiotherapy was unlikely to make an impact on clinical outcome.

GlaxoSmithKline Medical and Regulatory Affairs Director Dr William Mwatu said the cases were that serious despite the fact that regular screening – the Pap smear could detect early signs of cervical cancer.

He said: “Less than six per cent of Kenyan women who present with invasive cervical cancer have had a Pap smear, the current screening is opportunistic and only available in urban centres where skilled health care providers are available.”


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