, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 22 – Young girls from the age of nine to 22 years have been advised to go for cervical cancer screening because they are at a higher risk of infection.
The Ministry of Public Health\’s Programme Officer, Division of Reproductive Health Gladys Someren said on Friday that the young girl were exposed to infections when they engage in early sex as the cells within the cervix were not yet mature.
Speaking during an awareness campaign in the Kibera slums, she said that although the symptoms may not show immediately, cervical cancer could be detected early.
"We would want to target the women at the reproductive age but since our girls are sexually active at age nine, we don\’t want to rule them out," Ms Someren said.
She said that there were treatment options available like cryotherapy which burns the cancerous cells around the cervix to prevent the cancer from progressing.
"If you proceed to cancer level and it has not spread to other areas, we can just decide to remove the tumour which is within the cervix and we still have chemotherapy and radiotherapy in place," she explained.
The health expert said that cervical cancer screening was recommended once in every five years for those who were HIV negative but annually for those living with HIV.
"The advise we are giving to the young girls is to delay their first sexual contact at least until after age 22 because our worry is the moment they start engaging themselves in early sex, the cells within the cervix are not yet matured and that is where the cancer cells go and start eating their cervix," she stated.
"They should also delay their first delivery so that the same cells can mature," she recommended.
Ms Someren said that majority of the women still failed to go for screening due to ignorance, poverty and fear of the unknown while at the same time noting that for every 400 women screened, 15 of them had cervical cancer.
She pointed out that the government in partnership with the private sector was carrying out free screening services countrywide in October for cancer of the breast, cervix and prostrate.
Cervical cancer is a type of abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells inside the cervix whose symptoms go unnoticed and could take up to 15 years to detect.
The symptoms include abnormal bleeding, unusual heavy vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, pain during urination and bleeding between regular menstrual periods and after sexual intercourse.
But they normally appear when the cancer is at an advanced stage hence the need for screening for early detection.
According to the World Health Organisation, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer, with virtually all cases linked to genital infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
The WHO states that almost 80 percent of cases and majority of the deaths from cervical cancer occur in low-income countries where access to cervical cancer screening and treatment is low.