Why marriage helps in early cervical cancer diagnosis

By Gatonye Gathura

Single women are more likely than their married counterparts to be diagnosed with cervical cancer when it’s too late, revel a study at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Compared to married women, the study shows more single females are being diagnosed with cervical cancer at the hospital while the disease has already reached advanced stages.

“This study found that single women were more likely to be diagnosed at advanced stage of cervical cancer compared with those who were married.”

Researchers led by a clinician at the hospital Farida Kirema Makena, hypothesize that married women have better health habits that allow then notice symptoms earlier.

Such a married woman, the study says is likely to seek health care earlier mainly because of support from the spouse.

“It is also assumed that the single women might not be currently sexually active and therefore less inclined to seek gynecologic care unlike their married counterparts,” says the study.

The study involving 152 women diagnosed with cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital shows more than half had advanced stage cancer at diagnosis.

Published in July in the Journal of Cancer Science & Therapy the Makena and her team were interrogating the reasons why most women are presenting with cervical cancer at advanced stages at the hospital.

Cancer is categorised into four stages with the first two considered early and stages III and IV as advanced.

Detected early, doctors say treatment outcomes are much better than at later stages and deaths are likely to be prevented.

Survival rate of cervical cancer is reportedly 80 per cent to 99 per cent in stage I, 60 per cent to 90 per cent in stage II, 30 per cent to 50 per cent in stage III and 15 per cent to 20 per cent in stage IV.

“This is crucial for every woman because the stage at diagnosis could mean loss of a life or survival,” says Prof Nicholas Abinya, a cancer expert and lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

“Out of 152 cervical cancer patients we investigated, about 54 per cent had advanced stage of cancer at diagnosis,” says the six-month study.

The study reviewed and approved by both Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi Ethic and Research Committee also found older women, 50-75 also likely to be diagnosed at advanced stages.

“There was a significant difference between the ages of the women and advanced cervical cancer at diagnosis, where older women had increased proportion of advanced cervical cancer at diagnosis than younger women,” says the study.

Makena hazards that older women tend to believe that they are less vulnerable to cervical cancer and that Pap tests are not worthwhile.

Having no or low education and being HIV positive were also associated with late cancer diagnosis among the study respondents.

Majority of the women with advanced stage were from Western Kenya region the study says without explaining why.

However another recent study on breast cancer from 11 hospitals across the country showed some communities in western Kenya are likely than others to present with advanced tomours.

Lead author of the study published last month, Dr Shahin Sayed, of the Aga Khan University Hospital suggested that the women in those geographical areas may be developing a type of aggressive cancer different from that found elsewhere.

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Poor diets pushing cancer patients to the edge

Experts are concerned over malnutrition among cancer outpatients attending Kenyatta National Hospital and Texas Cancer Centre in Nairobi.

Using a new tool to measure malnutrition among cancer patients experts say more than a third of the patients attending the two facilities require quick intervention to make their lives and treatment bearable.

Most affected are men, mainly because, unlike the women many were suffering from cancers of the digestive system.

These included, esophageal, colorectal and stomach cancers compared to women who present with breast and cervical cancers.

The study appearing in the August issue of the journal BMC Nutrition covered 471 outpatient cancer patients at the two facilities in Nairobi.

It was conducted by a team from Moi University, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenyatta National Hospital and Rongo University Hospital, Migori.

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