Increasing awareness on cervical cancer prevention among girls and young women; Rocket Health Services-Uganda.

Cervical is the fourth most common cancer among females globally, with World Health Organization (2018) report estimating 570, 000 diagnoses and about 311, 000 death from the disease worldwide [1]. Not surprising, over 90% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In Uganda, cervical cancer remains the leading cause of cancer related deaths among women accounting for 4,301 deaths annually [2]. With the incidence rate for cervical cancer at record high 54.8 per 100,000 women, and mortality rate of 40.5 per 100,000 women; Uganda is one of the countries with the highest burden of cervical cancer globally [2].

 Scientific evidence links infections with the high risk sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and increased risk of developing cervical cancer [3].  It is important to note that most infections with HPV resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, however persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women. The risk of developing cervical cancer varies among women and this will depend on;

  • Immune status – Immune compromising states e.g. living with HIV, increases likelihood of persistent HPV infections and a more rapid progression to pre-cancer and cancer.
  • Coinfection with other sexually transmitted agents, such as those that cause herpes simplex, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Parity (number of babies born) and young age at first birth- The higher the number of birth and young age of first sexual encounter increase risk of cervical cancer.
  • Tobacco smoking 
  • HPV type – its oncogenicity or cancer-causing strength; serotypes 16 & 18 have been linked to cervical cancer.

The cervix is the entrance of the uterus from the vagina and a lady with cervical cancer may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms;

  • Watery or bloody vaginal discharge.
  • Spotting after sex or exercise.
  • Periods that may be heavier and longer-lasting than normal.
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse.

 Note: Abnormal bleeding doesn’t mean that you definitely have cervical cancer, but it should be investigated by your doctor as soon as possible.

Image: Signs and Symptoms of cervical cancer (courtesy of Sunrise Hospital)

How to prevent cervical cancer.

Primary prevention through vaccination and secondary prevention through routine cervical cancer screening for early diagnosis and treatment of precancerous lesions remain the most effective modalities of cervical cancer prevention.

 Primary prevention with HPV Vaccination.

 HPV vaccination is recommended for girls aged 9-14 years, before they become sexually active. In addition to providing the vaccine, always provide guidance information on;

  • Safe sexual practices, including delayed start of sexual activity;
  • Condom use for those already engaged in sexual activity;
  • Warnings about tobacco use,
  • Voluntary medical male circumcision.

Secondary prevention with cervical cancer screening.

Cervical cancer screening is recommended for all women aged 21-65 years at least once every 3 years. However, the frequency can change for those at higher risk for example HIV positives. Screening aims to detect precancerous changes, which, if not treated, may lead to cancer. Women who are found to have abnormalities on screening need follow-up, diagnosis and treatment, in order to prevent the development of cancer or to treat cancer at an early stage.

 There are 3 different types of cervical cancer screening tests that are currently recommended by WHO [3]:

  • HPV testing for high-risk HPV types.
  • Visual inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA)
  • Conventional (Pap) test and liquid-based cytology (LBC)

Rocket Health services for cervical cancer prevention.

Rocket Health services address the common barriers to accessing cervical cancer screening through leveraging digital technologies for awareness creation and mobile medical services for improved access to vaccination services. Health content on various topics including, myths, vaccination types and schedule and others is created and disseminated on our social media pages i.e. Facebook (@RocketHealthUG) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/RocketHealthUG).

 Online (e-commerce) site i.e. www.rockethealth.shop offers a convenient platform for clients to purchase quality vaccines in addition to being able to schedule their vaccination appointments at their preferred location or at the clinic.

 In order to ensure client, follow up and outcomes after vaccination, Rocket Health services have a 24/7 medical call center manned by qualified health workers to offer remote support to customers including; consultation, recommendations, referrals and linkages into care.

 To book your cervical cancer screening and vaccination appointment today;

Visit www.rockethealth.shop today or call our Toll-free customer helpline 0800 100 700 or send a WhatsApp chat to: +256 790 512 074.

 References

  1. World Health Organization (2018). Cancer: Cervical cancer. https://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/diagnosis-screening/cervical-cancer/en/
  2. Institut Català d’Oncologia (ICO) Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre). Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases Report: Uganda. 2017 [cited 1st November 2017]. Available from  http://www.hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/UGA.pdf.
  3. World Health Organization (2019). Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-papillomavirus-(hpv)-and-cervical-cancer

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