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Women highly likely to contract cervical cancer – MOH

As the world is observing cervical cancer month, the Ministry of Health has outlined categories of women who are likely to contract the deadly disease.

Though every woman who has engaged in sexual intercourse can get cervical cancer, a higher risk is observed in women who have HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, multiple sex partners, partners who have multiple sexual partners, multiple children, history of early sexual debut, and women who use tobacco.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, with an estimated 604 000 new cases and 342 000 deaths in 2020.

About 90% of the new cases and deaths worldwide in 2020 occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Two human papillomavirus (HPV) types (16 and 18) are responsible for nearly 50% of high-grade cervical pre-cancers.

HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity. More than 90% of them clear the infection eventually.

However, women living with HIV are 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than women without HIV and an estimated 5 percent of all cervical cancer cases are attributable to HIV.

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It takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems while only 5 to 10 years in women with weakened immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection.

Symptoms of early-stage cervical cancer may include; irregular blood spotting or light bleeding between periods in women of reproductive age, postmenopausal spotting or bleeding, bleeding after sexual intercourse, and increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling.

As cervical cancer advances, more severe symptoms may appear, including; persistent back, leg, or pelvic pain; weight loss; fatigue; loss of appetite; foul-smell discharge, vaginal discomfort, and swelling of a leg or lower extremities.

Other severe symptoms may arise at advanced stages depending on which organs the cancer has spread to.

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