With January being the cervical cancer awareness month, medics in Kericho, have raised concern over low cervical cancer screening uptake by residents.
They have urged women to ensure they know the risk factors and seek early screening to detect the presence of the disease, before it spreads to unmanageable levels.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.
In an interview with KNA, the Director of Medical Services at the Siloam Hospital in Kericho, Dr Peter Kibet Shikuku, advised women to seek medical attention when they notice symptoms of vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between menses, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul odor and pelvic pain during intercourse.
Dr Shikuku said if a patient ignores such symptoms, the disease starts to advance from the cervix to the surrounding tissues, then gradually to the lymph nodes and the cancerous cells extend to other cells in the body, whose obvious sign is a patient losing weight drastically.
“If nothing is done, the disease starts advancing. The cells start multiplying and the moment you have challenges where the disease starts to move from the cervix to the surrounding tissues and gradually to the lymph nodes to the extent the cancerous cells start spreading throughout the body. The moment we get to a level where the cancerous cells are spreading, the patient starts to waste away, the body size starts to shrink, the patient becomes weak. If the disease spreads to the bones, the blood level goes down, the body gets attacked by these abnormal cells, destroying the body and this might lead to death,” said Dr. Shikuku.
The medic revealed that cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women in Kenya and the Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, plays a key role in causing the disease.
“HPV is sexually transmitted from one individual to the other, but it tends to affect women though even have challenges with HPV. Actually, anyone who is sexually active is potentially exposed. Oral sex can lead to transmission of HPV and HPV can cause other cancers. Cervical cancer happens to be the second most common cancer in women in the country,” said Dr. Shikuku.
The Doctor said Cervical cancer risk factors arise from one’s exposure to the HPV from early sexual activity, where having sex at an early age increases the risk of HPV. Having many sexual partners increases the chance of acquiring HPV, having sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV/AIDS also increases the risk of HPV, in addition to having a weakened immune system,” added Dr. Shikuku.
He lamented that patients checking in for the cervical cancer screening at the Hospital, had advanced cancer and required terminal care.
“From our data on those having undergone screening this month, we have had a single suspicious case, five have been recommended for further tests from the 30 women who underwent the procedure. The cases that we see at the facility come in late, with up to stage four cervical cancer patients and require terminal care, “said Dr. Shikuku.
The medic noted that the disease can progress in a patient already exposed to the risk factors for a period, before it accelerates to chronic levels that are unmanageable.
“My appeal is for all women to go for cervical cancer screening for early detection and treatment. The disease can afflict girls as young as nine year old, depending on the sexual orientation. If diagnosed early, chances of survival stand at 90 per cent. If it comes in late chances of survival is almost reduced to 50 per cent. We want as many women as possible, to come for the cervical cancer screening,” he said.
By Sarah Njagi