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Kagera lays accent on early detection of cervical cancer

CONCERTED efforts are needed to ensure that no woman dies from cervical cancer, the leading cause of cancer and cancer-related deaths among women.

According to the Ministry for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, each year about 7,300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer while more than half of these women die as they are diagnosed at a late stage of the disease.

Kagera Regional Administrative Secretary Faustine Kamuzora has laid emphasis on the importance of screening for early detection of the disease and that parents and guardians should have their children immunised. He has reassured the public that the vaccine is safe and has been approved by the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Kagera regional vaccination average of 53 to 63 percent against cervical cancer is far below the national average set at 80 per cent, according to the Regional Maternal Health Coordinator, Neema Kyamba. Five screening centres have been set up in Bukoba Municipal Council.

They are Buhembe, Kashai, Rwamishenye, Bukoba Referral Regional Hospital and Zamzam. At the regional level, 64 centres would provide the service. Tanzania achieved a historical milestone to roll out a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine against cancer of the cervix.

A safe and effective Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine when provided to young girls between the ages of 9 and 14 protects them against HPV and cervical cancer. VicePresident Samia Suluhu Hassan when launching the programme last year emphasized on the importance of screening for early detection of cervical cancer which can be treated.

She affirmed government’s commitment to ensure the vaccination target of 616,734 girls is reached. She commended the government’s decision to introduce HPV vaccine in the country aimed at reducing mortality and morbidity caused by the cervical cancer.

She congratulated the government for making a high-level decision and commitment towards reduction of preventable childhood illnesses and deaths.

“This is an important milestone in the history of Tanzania to join the fight along with other countries in the world to prevent mortality and morbidity due to cervical cancer. To achieve the full benefit of HPV vaccine, it must be given to all targeted children regardless of where they live or how hard they are to reach,” she said.

“Girls aged 14 years of age would be the first beneficiaries of this vaccine as we prepare to extend the vaccination to the rest of the girls. This requires new routine delivery services and a good social mobilisation strategy in order to get the girls to return for their second dose.”

WHO recommends the use of HPV vaccine as the most costeffective public health measure against cervical cancer as part of a comprehensive cervical cancer control strategy. Cervical cancer has multiple risk factors such as early marriage, multiple sexual partners, multi parity, sexually transmitted illnesses including HIV infection, tobacco use, and vitamin deficiency.

On April 10, 2018, Tanzania became the seventh African country following Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, and South Africa to introduce HPV vaccination into its immunisation program, with over 600,000 girls ages 9 to 14 years vaccinated.

Low-cost doses of the quadrivalent vaccine are supplied by the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi. Approximately 15 USD is spent vaccinating each girl; for each woman presenting with an advanced cervical cancer, an estimated 2000 USD is required for supportive care.

Tanzania has a population of 14.88 million women ages 15years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Current estimates indicate that every year about 9772 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 6695 die from the disease.

Cervical cancer ranks as the first most frequent cancer among women in Tanzania and the first most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. About 3.3 per cent of women in the general population are estimated to harbour cervical HPV-16/18 infection at a given time, and 68.0 per cent of invasive cervical cancers are attributed to HPVs 16or 18.

HPV related cancers include cervical cancer, anal cancer, vulva cancer, vaginal cancer, penile cancer and oropharynx. In 2012, more than 8 million people died from cancer and 14 million new cases were diagnosed –with well over half the cases and two-thirds of the deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

By 2030, the global burden is expected to grow to 21.7 million new cancer cases and 13 million cancer deaths. And the burden will be concentrated even more in LMICs, where scarce resources and critical shortages of trained health professionals often prevent patients from accessing the care they need.

An estimated 1.9 million to 3 million cancer deaths could be avoided each year in LMICs with effective prevention and treatment. Every year on February 4 we celebrate World Cancer Day to highlight the on-going fight against cancer.

World Cancer Day aims to reduce the number of preventable deaths each year by raising cancer awareness among the general public and pressing governments to take further actions to strengthen cancer prevention, control, and treatment. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Tanzania.

After excluding human immunodeficiency virus, lower respiratory infections, malaria, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally, with over 500,000 new cases and an estimated 250,000 deaths each year.

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