The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) infections cause approximately 68,000 cases of cervical cancer in Africa each year.
It affects younger age groups as a result of early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, and exposure to other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Yet it is the most common cause of cancer where it accounts for 22% of all female cancers and 12% of all newly diagnosed cancer in both men and women every year.
There is a safe and effective vaccine that protects against HPV and it has the potential to prevent one-third of all cases of cervical cancer. Two HPV vaccines are certified safe by WHO and are intended for use in girls between age 9 and 13 years.
WHO recommends screening for all women aged 30 – 49 years to identify precancerous lesions, usually asymptomatic.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: ‘There is an urgent need to integrate cancer control programmes into existing primary sexual and reproductive health care services, strengthen multisectoral collaboration, and improve public health awareness in order to tackle this devastating disease.’
In order to reduce the cervical cancer burden, WHO will continue to support Ministries of Health to implement priority cancer prevention and control interventions that cuts across the continuum of prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care services.