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Cervical Cancer Screening Technology Launched in Kenya

African medical laboratory Lancet on Tuesday launched cervical cancer screening technology in Kenya to enhance the fight against the disease in East Africa.

The technology, Cobas 4800 HPV detects DNA from 14 high-risk HPV types, including HPV 16 and HPV 18, which cause at least 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

“The technology allows women to self-collect samples for testing without the presence of a doctor or nurse,” Dr. Ahmed Kalebi, Managing Director Pathologists Lancet labs said on Tuesday during a media briefing in Nairobi.

The initiative introduces to Kenya a new screening that is more women friendly, private, accurate and efficient than before.

Kalebi said that women use a soft brush called the Evalyn Brush but those who don’t mind can still have the sample taken by a health professional.

“Women do so by simply swabbing the inner parts of their vagina using the soft Evalyn brush, which is specifically customized and validated for this purpose,” he revealed.

He said that the bar-coded Evalyn brush can then be dispatched securely and even anonymously to the laboratory for testing, with results delivered confidentially through email, Short Message Service or mobile app.

“This approach is meant to address concerns raised by many women in the region who find cervical cancer screening using pap smear or visual inspection too invasive and embarrassing,” he added.

In the two procedures, health personnel have to insert a plastic or metal instrument (speculum) into the vaginal canal to help collect or view cervical tissues for abnormal changes associated with cervical cancer.

He noted that pap smear and visual inspection techniques are widely used in the East African region for screening cervical cancer but neither of them tests for the presence of the virus like Cobas HPV test, the new technology.

“Majority of women in the region will no longer need pap smears and visual inspections which many find too invasive and embarrassing since this technology enhances privacy,” he observed.

Research findings for Cobas HPV tests confirm that women who test negative for the virus have virtually no risk of developing cervical cancer for 3 to 5 years, when they will need to be tested again.

But Kalebi noted that those who test positive for the virus will need regular monitoring by gynaecologists to see if their cervix is having signs of developing cervical cancer.

The new technology that was approved two years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a primary screening tool for cervical cancer as it is more accurate than pap smear is only available in South Africa, Europe and United States of America (USA).

It looks for the abnormal changes in the cells and tissues of the cervix that may be an indication of cervical cancer. The abnormal changes are usually caused by long-term HPV infection. At this point, it may be too late.

In most cases, high-risk HPV infections are cleared away naturally by the body’s immune system and do not cause any health problems.

However, in a fraction of women, the high risk HPVs develops a persistent infection which may put them at risk of cancer.

Cervical cancer screening is still lower than 10 per cent of Kenyan women despite being the most common cancer after breast cancer.

The initiative seeks to enhance cervical cancer screening among Kenyan women, majority of who are vulnerable to the second most common cancer in women in the country.

At least 90 percent of women in Kenya have not been screened for the killer disease, making them vulnerable to it while others are often diagnosed with the disease when it is too late.

The virus is transmitted sexually and is therefore common among persons who have had any sort of sexual contact.

Rajen Bhimaraj, Country Manager Roche and Head of Management center in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) women to come up and test for cervical cancer to stop unnecessary deaths.

“We hope that with the new technology in place, women deaths can now be avoided,” Bhimaraj added.

According to Kenya’s Ministry of Health, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Kenyan women after breast cancer.

At least 4,802 women are diagnosed with it every year in Kenya while at least 2,451 die from it.

This is largely due to the fact that less than 10 per cent of women of reproductive age in Kenya have been screened, making them vulnerable to the disease.

The technology is available to women across the region through Lancet’s more than 40 branches in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. – Xinhua

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