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Cervical cancer kills 260,000 women annually

Dec 3, 2019, 12:41 PM

Cervical cancer kills 260,000 women annually, according to health experts. It’s the most common cancer among women in The Gambia, they added.

At a press briefing held at the Central Medical Store in Kotu last week, Sidat Fofana, deputy programme manager of Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) said that national human papilloma virus vaccine was introduced in The Gambia to prevent cervical cancer. He added that all the girls in grade 3 and out of school girls aged 9-14 years are targeted for the vaccination against human papilloma virus.

Mr. Fofana, added that almost all cases of cervical cancer (99%) are caused by a sexually transmitted virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). “HPV can also cause genital warts in both men and women and other cancers of the anus, vagina, penis, vulva and throat.”

Mr. Fofana mentioned that most of the people with HPV do not show any signs or symptoms and unaware of the infection in most cases. ‘HPV infection will clear its own,’ he said.

“However, persistent infection can lead to pre-cancerous lesions, if untreated,” he added, and “these lesions can lead to cervical cancer,” he added.

According to him, the signs of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, back and pelvic pain.

Mr. Fofana disclosed that The Gambia is the second country in Africa after Senegal that has the vaccine for cervical cancer.

Buba Darboe, programme manager at the Ministry of Health, said cervical cancer can be treated and the cancer screening and treatment services are available in certain areas in the country. He added that vaccination is the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer.

Mr. Darboe said vaccination will take place at all public and private schools in The Gambia, including madarasas and it will be available in health facilities and communities for girls who are out of school and the vaccine is free for all girls in grade 3 and their out of school peers aged 9 - 14 years.

He noted that the vaccine will be given by trained health workers in all the vaccination sites, and he urged parents and teachers to ensure that all grade 3 girls and their out of school peers are vaccinated.