Cervical Cancer - What one needs to know
Henry Guild Nkamushaba - an HIV Care, Treatment Officer and Prevention Officer

My name is Henry Guild Nkamushaba, an HIV Care & Treatment Officer and Prevention Officer in the fight against cervical cancer among women in Uganda. I work with YOUTH AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT (YAWE) FOUNDATION as an In charge of ART Clinic and General medical services including  the following;

>health promotion through health education/ sensitization campaigns, early screening & treatment of communicable and non communicable diseases

>adolescent sex and reproductive health focused on putting an end to early marriage and teenage pregnancies

>Planned parenthood through sensitization and provision of family planning

>HIV counseling &testing and TB prevention

>health advocacy

>focused cervical cancer screening integrated with reproductive and sexuality health in 8 districts that make up Rwenzori districts in western parts of Uganda.

In this article am going to talk about cervical cancer;

Cervical cancer is the world’s fourth most common cancer in women. In 2018, estimated 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and about 311,000 women died from the disease according to WHO report.

Uganda has the highest incidence rates of cervical cancer in the whole world of 54.8 per 100,000 population. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death among all cancers in women according to MOH-UGANDA with estimated 40.5 per 100,000 cervical cancer related deaths, and fourth cause of death worldwide.

Whereas cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable through vaccination against HPV and early screening, it remains one of the grave threats to women’s lives.

When diagnosed, cervical cancer is one of the most successful treatable forms of  cancer as long as it’s detected early and managed effectively. Cervical cancer when diagnosed in late stages, can also be controlled with appropriate treatment and palliative care.

  • ca-cx is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells lining up the cervix; Before ca-cx develops, cells that line the cx may change and become abnormal; These abnormal cells grow slowly over a period of 10-15 years and all this time may not experience signs en symptoms; Ca-cx is linked to women who are exposed to HpV. Having 1st sexual partner before age of 16years; Having multiple sexual partners irrespective of the age; Family h/o ca-cx ; Smoking; HIV/AIDS infection; Inactive lifestyle; Having sexual diseases eg genital herpes, chlamydial infections; Immuno suppression including due to prolonged use of steroids; Women with un circumcised men are at a higher risk

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER

Pre cancerous  stage; Normally at this stage, there will be no s+s.

Cancerous stage; Bleeding may occur after sexual intercourse or occassionally without specific pattern,Heavy whitish vaginal d/c that may become yellowish en smelly or has mixture of blood.

Advanced stage of ca-cx :Fatigue, loss of appetite, low grade fevers; Irregular, intermenstrual and vaginal bleeding following sexual intercourse; Severe anaemia in very advanced stage; Smelly vaginal discharge that is pale, watery, pink, brown or bloody; Backache, painful legs and pelvic pain; Single swollen leg; Kidney failure, fistula(rectal/ vesico-vaginal and/ lympho edema in advanced stage)

KEY MESSAGES BOUT CERVICAL CANCER

  • Ca-cx is caused by HPV which is sexually transmitted
  • >80% of women will be infected by HPV at a point in life time
  • Some women are able to fight HPV naturally
  • Only HPV infection that persist will lead to ca-cx.
  • It takes 10-15 yrs a woman exposed to HPV to develop ca-cx
  • This gives health workers opportunity to detect and treat precancerous changes
  • HPV vaccine protects girls who are not yet sexually active from being infected later in life. Vaccine is safe and effective.
  • Ca-cx is highly preventable via screening and vaccination.
  • Ca-cx can be prevented by living a healthy life style e.g. a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco smoking and multiple sexual partners.
  • Ca-cx is the leading cause of cancer related death among women.
  • Late and/ inaccurate diagnosis of ca-cx is a major cause ca-cx death
  • Seek medical attention if you have irregular, unexplained or you bleed following sexual intercourse.

HAVING CANCER IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE; CANCER CAN BE TREATED IF DETECTED EARLY.

The writer is HENRY GUILD NKAMUSHABA

henrygild85@gmail.com