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International News

Kenya: New Visual Test Screens for Cervical Cancer

October 6, 2009

In a bid to combat the increasing number of cervical cancer cases, government hospitals in Kenya are encouraging women to undergo an innovative free exam to detect precancerous lesions of the cervix.

The low-cost method involves dilating the vaginal walls; applying a vinegar-based acetic acid; and performing a visual inspection using a bright halogen light. The solution turns suspect lesions white, while healthy tissue shows no color change.

"Once detected, the lesions are treated instantly through freezing and within 10 minutes the patient can go home and will not need to be seen for another five years," said Dr. Paul Mitei, head of gynecology at Kisumu Provincial Hospital.

While not all hospitals have cryo-therapy equipment for lesion removal, most provincial hospitals do. Discussions are underway with donors to purchase materials for countrywide distribution, said Dr. Jacton Omotto of Siaya District Hospital.

"Studies have proven the visual inspection method is as efficient as Pap testing in identifying cervical cancer precursors. However, Pap requires much more sophisticated equipment, training and logistics. The visual inspection method can be done by any trained medic," said Omotto.

"In the past, when we suspected cervical cancer we would refer the patient to a higher-level facility for testing and treatment," Omotto noted. "However, due to poverty many would not travel to Nairobi where Kenyatta National Hospital is located. Instead they would stay home and would be brought back in critical condition."

Cervical cancer is one of the leading killers of Kenyan women. According to Omotto, young women and HIV-positive women are increasingly being diagnosed with the disease. Vaccines that protect against strains of human papillomavirus linked to the majority of cervical cancers are prohibitively expensive in Kenya.

Back to other news for October 2009

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
10.01.2009; Susan Anyangu

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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