By Zinhle Mapumulo
Shocking fresh figures reveal that up to two thirds of South African women are at risk of developing deadly cervical cancer, which is linked to the deaths of more than 3000 women each year.
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicates that close to 17 million local women, mostly black women between the ages of 15 and 64, were at a “heightened risk” of developing cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women in South Africa with one in 35 women diagnosed with it,” said Lucy Balona, spokesperson for the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa).
The WHO report says that more than 3000 women die from the cancer each year in South Africa.
Balona said, “The worst affected group is that of women between 15 and 44.
“More recently we have witnessed a scourge in black communities, which makes us believe the problem is more serious than we thought.”
At least 5 million women are thought to be harbouring cancerous cells caused by sexually transmitted infection Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV). This virus has been identified as a leading cause of cervical cancer.
Prof Martin Hale, head of the department of anatomical pathology at Wits and of the National Health Laboratory Service said yesterday that limited access to information and resources make it easy for the condition to thrive.
Cansa said very few women (as few as 20%) had taken advantage of the screening programmes in public healthcare facilities. This was because of a lack of equipment, limited staff training, reluctance among women to provide pap smears, lack of laboratory services and long turnaround time for results to be returned from laboratories and clinics.
[Note from SaneVax: If these women do not currently have access to proper screening, what are they going to do to comply with the screening required after HPV vaccination? Are they not being told that vaccination does not eliminate the need for ongoing screening and proper follow-up? Is this yet another example of trying to increase vaccine uptake without telling medical consumers the entire truth?]