Facts and Questions about Cervical Cancer
The staff at WAAF/IHCC are trained to provide screening of the cervix as part of efforts to fight Cervical Cancer. At IHCC, this is done via what we call VIA, which stands for Visual Inspection of the Cervix (the mouth of the womb) using an Acetic vinegar. VIA is provided at IHCC at a reduced fee.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which results in the formation of malignant/cancerous cells in the cervical tissue. Half of the women who develop cervical cancer die from it. Most of the women who die from cervical cancer live in low and middle-income countries. Early detection from regular check-ups is important.
How are HIV and cervical cancer-related?
Women who are HIV-positive and become infected with HPV are likely to progress into cervical cancer at an accelerated rate. HPV infection can also increase the risk of HIV transmission. As both HIV and HPV are transmitted through sexual activity, correct and consistent condom use can reduce the rate of transmission for both diseases.
Why is cervical cancer screening important?
Africa carries a large concentration of HIV and cervical cancer diseases. In
Ghanaian women ages 15 – 44 years old, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer. Out of the 3000+ women diagnosed every year, over 2000 will die from the disease. It is encouraged that women begin screening for cervical cancer at 21 years of age, and every three to five years after that for HIV-negative women. HIV-positive women should get screened for cervical cancer every 12 months. Screening is the easiest form of prevention!
How can cervical cancer be treated?
When caught early, there are community health workers thoroughly trained to treat legions through a simple procedure called thermocoagulation. If the disease has progressed, chemotherapy drugs and/or surgery may be necessary. It is curable if caught early.
Why is cervical cancer so prevalent in many African regions?
- In many areas, there are no policies and few programs on screening and treatment.
- Many clinics and hospitals in the regions do not focus on prevention so yearly PAP smears and colposcopy/VIA are not well advertised and are too expensive for the average woman.
- By the time a woman seeks medical advice, the disease has already reached an advanced stage.
- The HPV vaccine, which would immunize adolescent girls from ever getting the HPV infection, comes at a high price.
- Many African countries have poor infrastructure making the trip to a clinic difficult to reach for those who live in areas less accessible.