oa Southern African Journal of Gynaecological Oncology - Cervical cancer in Southern Africa : the challenges : review
Cervical cancer remains the second most common cancer among women worldwide and the most common cancer amongst black African women in South Africa. Annually there are 500 000 cases of cervical cancer worldwide, of which the mortality is about 50%. This is largely due to presentation at a late stage. Lack of availability of treatment facilities may be another factor contributing to this high mortality.
Ironically, cervical cancer is one of the few medical conditions with a precursor lesion, which if appropriately detected and treated, can result in a reduction of both the prevalence and mortality from cervical cancer. It turns out that southern Africa like so many other parts of the developing world, suffers from the same ills such as a lack of finances, lack of knowledge of the disease and a lack of political will to curb the prevalence of the disease. A significant amount of the health budget needs to be spent treating this disease every year.
There is now a large body of evidence implicating the oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) as a necessary agent in the pathogenesis of cervical cancer. To date, two commercial vaccines have been developed to curb the diseases caused by the high risk and low risk HPVs. However, similar to the problems of screening for cervical cancer, it remains a challenge to ensure that there will be sufficient dissemination of information about the vaccines to the community, uptake of the vaccine by women and the political will to implement a preventative vaccine strategy.
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