Cervical cancer is a major public health concern in Kenya. It is the second most common cancer in women but the leading cause of cancer deaths. Yet, it is a totally preventable, through vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes it and through screening women for and treating pre-cancer lesions that lead to cancer after many years. Unless it is addressed, the disease will continue to perpetuate gender inequality and threaten women’s right to health.
The 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) global call to action for cervical cancer elimination proposed targets for 2030 which are:
- 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age;
- 70% of women are screened with a high-precision test at 35 and 45 years of age; and
- 90% of women identified with the cervical disease receive treatment and care
Cervical cancer can take up to 10-15 years to progress into invasive cancer. This unique natural history allows for secondary prevention through screening using various screening tests, and subsequent treatment through simple techniques. Primary prevention is also available through the HPV Vaccine which is targeted at girls aged 10 years in Kenya.
Moreover, there is need to target a wider audience of parents, adolescents, educators, leaders, and health workers at all levels of the health system so as to reach women throughout their lives with communication on cervical cancer prevention.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month – an opportunity to highlight and raise awareness about cervical cancer. Take that bold step this January to screen for cervical cancer at our LVCT Health sites, other Reproductive Health clinics or Private/Public Hospitals.
By Duke Sangara