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Cervical Cancer Kills A Woman Every Two Minutes

Cervical cancer has been named as the leading form of cancer in women in Africa followed by breast cancer, killing one woman every two minutes.

Also, while cervical cancer accounts for 288,000 deaths per year worldwide, approximately 80 percent of death occurs in developing countries, where with only weak or non-existent cervical cancer screening and treatment programmes, it is the leading cause of death in women.

This was disclosed by Dr Benjamin Kumbour, the Minister of Health, at the inauguration of a Local Organising Committee (LOC) on “Stop Cervical Cancer and Breast Cancer” in Africa Conference to be hosted in Accra in July.

“Available statistics indicate that a woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes and that, approximately, 80% of deaths occur in developing countries as a result of weak or non-existence of cervical cancer screening and treatment programme,” he divulged. The Minister added that one in forty-one (1 in 41) women develop cancer of the cervix during their lifetime. He observed that the disease can only be combated through knowledge and early detection of possible signs of the disease at national, regional and international levels.

He continued that it was in the above that three major conferences on “Stop Cervical and Breast Cancer in Africa” have been organised by the Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation, a Nigerian-based, Regional Non-Government Organisation in collaboration with First Ladies, Ministers of Health, Parliamentarians, Professionals and other Stakeholders of host countries in Nigeria in 2007, Uganda in 2008 and in South Africa in 2009 and the fourth in Accra in July, 2010.
According to the Minister, the conference will offer Ghana an opportunity to showcase programme, projects and efforts made to combat breast and cervical cancer and also strategise to combat the disease, which is emerging as a global threat to health.

Dr Kumbour further advocated for increased awareness, reduction of stigmatization of people suffering and living with the disease and mobilization of needed resources for the development of policies, strategies and actions to fight the disease as some other the objectives of the conference.

Dr Henrietta Odoi, the Chairperson of the committee, disclosed that the disease affects 510,000 women per year, hinting that by 2020, it is expected that developing countries will account for 90% of cervical cancer deaths worldwide. She further opined that sub-Saharan Africa is the

worst - affected region across the globe, where the disease is the most common cancer in women, and “there are over 200 million women aged 15 years or older who are at potential risk of developing the disease in the region.” She added that though worldwide, in very two minutes a woman dies of the disease, the threat that cervical cancer poses is particularly acute for HIV positive women, for whom cancer trends to occur, not only more often, but also develops more aggressively, emphasising that the disease is considered an AIDS – defining illness in HIV-infected women.

“As women we do not undergo regular screening, cervical cancer can be a silent killer, taking many years develop. By the time, the symptoms appear the disease if often at an advance stage. As well as the high death toll associated with cervical cancer, women who survive could be left infertile if radical surgery is needed to remove the cancerous tissue,” she said.

In an exclusive interview with GO, Dr Odoi mentioned that the virus behind the disease, she, is predominately caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual activity. She opined that condoms do not fully protect women from HPV infection since the spread of the virus does not depend on full intercourse but may occur simply through skin-to-skin contact in the genital areas.

She also stated that there are 100 known types of HPV, of which 15 can cause cervical cancer, adding that about 94 percent of cancers caused by HPV are in women, with cervical cancer accounting for 90 percent of these cases.

“HPV types 16 and 18 are the most common cancer-causing virus types and accounts for over 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases worldwide and are the main HPV types associated with cervical cancer across all of Africa,” she told GO.  
Source: The Ghanaian Observer/Ghana