JANUARY: THE CERVICAL CANCER MONTH
January is known for many things, school fees month, resolutions month, being broke, but few people know that it is the cervical cancer awareness month
Many women die of cervical cancer than any other cancer in Kenya. According to last year’s GLOBOCAN report, there were 3,286 fatal cases of cervical cancer, and 5,250 new cases. In other words, 14 new cases of cancer daily.
This is alarming! Especially because women can reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer by having screening tests and receiving a vaccine that protects against HPV infection. So why are there many deaths among women? Are the screening equipment enough in the public hospitals? Is the screening price and medical fees too high? Is there enough information given to the women both in the rural and in the urban areas? Are there any cultural beliefs and myths that scare women from being tested? These are possible factors.
To reduce the risk of cervical cancer:
· Get vaccinated against HPV.
· Have routine Pap tests. Pap tests can detect precancerous conditions of the cervix, so they can be monitored or treated in order to prevent cervical cancer.
· Most medical organizations suggest women begin routine Pap tests at age 21 and repeat them every few years.
· Practice safe sex. Using a condom, having fewer sexual partners and delaying intercourse may reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
· Don't smoke.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
· The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
· The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will use a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen your vagina. This helps the doctor examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are sent to a laboratory.
If you are getting a Pap test, the cells will be checked to see if they look normal.
If you are getting an HPV test, the cells will be tested for HPV. HPV is a virus that spreads through sexual contact. It can sometimes lead to cancer. If your screening tests are abnormal, your doctor may do more tests, such as a biopsy.