The somber and extremely melancholic mood at Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso’s memorial service at All Saints Cathedral prompted me to think of the mega question that every Kenyan lady should be asking herself “Am I safe?”This consequently obliged me to delve deeper into the abyss of the world of cancer in a bid to unravel a few facts regarding this dreaded faceless monster that has been baptized and sanitized using the name cervical cancer.
Did you know that over 4000 women succumb to the aforementioned silent killer annually? According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, 13000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the year 2016. Furthermore, it is indispensable to note that cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women.
Cervical cancer is a malignant growth in the cervix-the lowermost part of the uterus that is impossible to detect due to its delayed signs and symptoms. The tell-tale signs only appear when the growth is advanced. Therefore, it is rare to find cervical cancer in women younger than 20 years. It is rampant during a woman’s midlife that is between 35 and 44 years. Only 15% of cervical cancer cases occur in women who are over 65 years old.
RISK FACTORS AND CAUSES
Human Papillo mavirus (HPV) Infection-a sexually transmitted disease. It has got two forms HPV-16 and HPV-18 that are high risk. This infection is behind 99% of cervical cancer cases.
Multiple sexual partners-This increases the chances of HPV infection thus prompting pre-cervical cancerous growths
Early sexual contact
Oral contraceptives-when used over a long period of time.
EARLY SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Blood spots or light bleeding between or following menstrual periods
Bleeding after a sexual intercourse, a pelvic examination or douching.
Unusually longer and heavier menstrual bleeding
Excruciating pain during sexual intercourse
Post menopausal bleeding
Increased foul smelling vaginal discharge that may be pale, watery, pink, bloody or brown in colour.
Unexplained persistent pelvic and/or back pain.
MEASURES THAT CAN BE UNDERTAKEN TO CURB THIS MENACE
All women who have attained the age of 21 should have a pap test done after every three years until they turn 29.
At 30 years, pap tests should be combined with Human Papilloma virus tests in a process called co-tests. This should be done after every five years until the woman attains the age of 65.
Women who have attained 65 years and above and have already been having regular screening during the preceding 10 years should stop any further screening unless pre-cancerous growths were detected during this period.
Women who have been vaccinated against the HPV infection should still adhere to the afore-mentioned screening guidelines.