June 13, 2024
CERVICAL CANCER: The Silent Burden Eating up Kenyan Women

CERVICAL CANCER: The Silent Burden Eating up Kenyan Women

Cervical cancer is the leading cancer in women in Kenya, accounting for approximately 5,236 new cases and 3,211 deaths.

Kenya is one of the world’s top 20 countries with the highest cervical cancer rates.

According to the National Screening Guidelines, HIV-negative women should be screened every 5 years, and HIV-positive women every 1 year. 

Women who have ever had sexual intercourse should be screened for cervical cancer.

The target population for screening is women aged 25 to 49, but women aged 50 to 65 are still at risk of cervical cancer and should be screened. 

Delegates from 16 African countries with a high cervical cancer burden are meeting in Nairobi to strategize on how to reduce the disease’s spread.

On Monday, Health DG Dr. Patrick Amoth officially opened the four-day meeting of delegates from the African Cervical Health Alliance (ACHA).

ACHA is a network of civil society organizations that currently includes 22 organizations based in 16 African countries that have been hit hardest by cervical cancer.

Benda Kithaka, Founder and Executive Director of KILELE Health Association and Secretariat Lead of ACHA Kenya, stated that the four-day meeting aims to equip civil society organizations to bridge the cancer care gap.

The focus is on training civil society members to conduct research and use evidence-based data to inform cervical health decision-making.

“Civil society is the direct link to the community and they know where the shoe is pinching,” Kithaka said.

He also added: “So when we take the knowledge to civil society organisations they are better able to measure what is happening to be able to bring evidence that can inform decision making.”

Africa has the highest incidence and death rate from cervical cancer, accounting for 19 of the world’s 20 countries with the highest burden.

When he opened the meeting, Amoth stated that the meeting is not only intended for participants to share knowledge, but also to form partnerships and strategies that will lead to a future free of the burden of cervical cancer.

The DG stated that cervical cancer remains a significant public health challenge throughout Africa, with many women succumbing to it each year.

The burden is especially heavy in areas where access to quality healthcare services is often limited and awareness of cervical cancer prevention is low.

“Too many women are diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer, when treatment options are limited, and survival rates are low,” Amoth said.

Amoth urged countries to embrace the 90-70-90 strategy and work tirelessly toward its implementation. 

The strategy calls for 90 percent of girls to be fully vaccinated against HPV by the age of 15, 70 percent of women to be screened with high-performance tests, and 90 percent of women with cervical diseases to be treated.

“In Africa, only 18 countries have launched their HPV vaccination programs and they are not well-performing with Kenya being at 33 with the first dose,” Kithaka noted.

Amoth acknowledged that eliminating cervical cancer necessitates more than just medical interventions, stating that efforts must focus on all avenues for reaching even more women and girls with life-saving interventions. 

“For this to be a reality, we need to adopt women-centric approaches that prioritize the needs and voices of women and girls, families and communities,” Amoth said.

He also stated that the underlying social, economic, and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from receiving cervical health services must be addressed. 

CERVICAL CANCER: The Silent Burden Eating up Kenyan Women

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