WINDHOEK – The Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) has stressed the importance of sexually active women regularly undergoing screening for cervical cancer for early detection.
Martha Baleki Angolo, a medical assistant at CAN, said in a recent interview with New Era that more women are being diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Statistics from CAN reveal that in 2015, 295 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and in 2016, 249 women were diagnosed with the disease.
The youngest cervical cancer patient was 27 years old while the oldest was 85 years old. However, these are just the recorded cases.
Women who are HIV-positive are at a greater risk of acquiring cervical cancer, stressed Angolo.
“If somebody has HIV, their immune system is very weak. Women who are HIV-positive should go for pap smear twice a year so that they know where they stand,” said Angolo. Those who are not HIV-positive should be screened at least once in a year.
She also emphasised that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine is not as effective in sexually active women as it is in women who are not sexually active.
“That is why in other countries you see that girls who are in their pre-teenage years are given the HPV vaccine to make sure they are fully protected,” she added.
HPV vaccine protects against cancers caused by HPV infection. HPV is a common virus that infects teenagers and adults and according to the United States of America Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14 million people including teenagers become infected with HPV each year.
HPV infection can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and penile cancer in men.
HPV can also cause anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat and genital warts in both women and men, according to CDC.
According to CDC Namibia, cervical cancer is when abnormal cells grow on the cervix of a woman. “Cancers of the cervix, uterus, and ovaries are the second most common form of cancer in Namibia, accounting for nearly 14 percent of all cancer cases. Cervical cancer is highly fatal if not detected on time and treated appropriately,” according to CDC Namibia.
Sadly, most women who become sick with cervical cancer are in the prime of their lives - raising children, working, and being active community members, according to CDC. “Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infection is common and most sexually active people will be infected with the virus during their lifetime. Cervical cancer is a particular risk for HIV- positive women as a woman who is HIV-positive is at least five times more likely to be infected with persistent HPV, which leads to cervical cancer, than someone who is HIV-negative,” according to CDC Namibia.
Meanwhile, Angolo explained that a person who is not sexually active is guaranteed better protection against HPV vaccine compared to a person who is sexually active. “Any lady who knows that she is sexually active must go for pap smear. It’s the only way to detect cervical cancer. Women need to go for pap smear because if we find abnormal cells in the cervix we can treat them early,” stressed Angolo. Through outreach programmes conducted by CAN, Angolo observed that some women still link cervical cancer diagnosis to witchcraft.
“We need to create more awareness to dispel all kinds of myths associated with cancer in general,” said Angolo.
In at least 78 percent of cases, women with cervical cancer are HIV-positive, noted Angolo.
She also said that in some regions such as the Zambezi the Cancer Association of Namibia has observed many cases of cervical cancer among women.
She explained that this is partly because women there practise dry sex which increases their risk of cervical cancer and HIV. She urged women and men to practise safe sex to reduce the chances of contracting HPV.
“The more sexual partners one has the higher the risk of contracting HPV. HPV is the culprit that causes cervical cancer. We need to educate our men to know this,” said Angolo.
2019-02-18 10:41:28 6 months ago