Story by: Melvin B. Moore
Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death from cancer among women in low-resource settings, affecting women at a time of life when they are critical to social and economic stability. Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of Human papillomavirus (HPV).
Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. The cancer is by far the most common HPV-related disease. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer can be attributable to HPV infection.
Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018 representing 6.6% of all female cancers. Approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occurred in low- and middle-income countries. While incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer have fallen significantly in developed countries, 83% of all new cases that occur annually from the disease occur in developing countries.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the incidence of this emerging cancer is steadily increasing with more than 75,000 new cases and close to 50,000 deaths a year, a toll further increased by HIV infection.
According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer will kill more than 443,000 women per year worldwide by 2030, nearly 90 % of them in sub-Saharan Africa. This increase in cervical cancer incidence in Africa is now counteracting the progress made by African women in reducing maternal mortality and increasing longevity.
Nevertheless, cervical cancer is a potentially preventable noncommunicable disease that can be averted or halted by primary (vaccination), secondary (early diagnosis of situations at risk), and tertiary (early diagnosis of proven cases of cervical neoplasia) prevention.
In Liberia, cervical cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death among women. It has been reported that women ages 15years and older constitute 1.30 million who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Current estimates indicate that every year 366 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 269 dies from the disease.
Cervical cancer ranks as the 1st most frequent cancer among women in Liberia and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. The lack of prevention, screening and follow up programs, have made cervical cancer public health urgency.
In a study conducted by Beddoe and colleagues on “Cervical Cancer in Liberia: Identifying Existing Gaps in Infrastructure and Treatment Availability” discovered that the majority of women, >70% presented with advanced-stage disease and 1/3 of women succumbed to their disease within 3 months if no treatment was given.
They further stated that Patient lack of knowledge about the disease, lack of knowledge by health workers about the disease, lack of pathology services and lack of radiology equipment to assess the extent of disease were main factors accounting for delays in presentation, diagnosis, and treatment.
Overcoming the challenges and barriers to providing cancer care in Liberia requires a commitment by the government in collaboration with international and national stakeholders to provide support for a comprehensive cancer registry to track cases.
Lessons learned reports and publications describing and evaluating service implementation are highly relevant, as are cost-effectiveness studies to guide service strategies for scale-up.
Targeted research is critically needed, particularly implementation science research to inform feasible and sustainable strategies to maximize the number of women reached with services.
About the Author
Melvin B. Moore is a Liberian, Researcher and a Master of Public Health candidate with an emphasis in Monitoring and Evaluation at the Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology at Mount Kenya University, Nairobi Kenya. Presently he is working on his Thesis titled “Evaluating factors influencing blood donation practices among students of tertiary institutions in Thika Town, Kiambu County, Kenya”. You can reach him on the following numbers: +254789355173, +254799869764 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org