IBM leads agencies in combating cervical cancer in Kenya

Kenyan government’s health department, the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the United States Embassy have partnered in a project focused on pulling down the increasing cases of cervical cancer in the country.

The two have received a contingency plan from a group of IBM workforce aimed at subduing the rising cases of cervical cancer.

The plan recommends measures including use of district health information software to capture and analyse data on cervical cancer. Other recommendations include establishment of national reporting standards and requirements for health facilities to report cases.

IBM country general manager for East Africa Anthony Mwai told The Standard that leveraging the existing HIV care and treatment to include cervical cancer screening is a resource-sharing model that will ensure more women can access cervical cancer diagnoses as well as improve their treatment outcomes in the short- or long-term.

This is primarily what the IBM looks to achieve by using data to create intelligent systems that add value to life.

Following investigations, IBM asked the government to use its existing HIV care and treatment network to refer patients for cervical cancer testing, said Fredrick Obura of The Standard.

Cervical cancer is one of the leading killers of women of child-bearing age. Some 3 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years request cervical cancer screening, according to reports.

United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) notes that women are four times more likely to suffer abnormalities to the cervix hence leading to cancer. Africa reports close to 500,000 diagnoses annually.

According to Dr Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specilising in the disease at Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya loses an estimated 3,400 women to cervical cancer each year.

Studies also reveal that HIV infection increases women’s risk of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a leading cause of cervical cancer.

Screening for cervical cancer is part of routine care for HIV-positive women under the Kenya’s national guidelines for HIV care.

Screening however remains low. The WHO reports that some 3.2 percent of women in the country aged between 18 and 69 years are screened for the disease every three years. This is compared 70 percent of the women in the developed countries.

WHO statistics also show that cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women in Kenya with 39 percent of women estimated to have a cervical HPV infection.

According to the American National Cancer Institute, widespread vaccination can reduce the cervical cancer globally by about two-thirds.

Rwanda has since embarked on a public a public-private vaccine delivery strategy that illustrates possible actions against the disease. Last year, the country began rolling out nationwide programme to provide vaccine protection to “all” girls within three years. Merck donated the vaccines.

The IBM, MOH and U.S. Embassy project is an aspect of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign, composed of UN and United States agencies.

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