Cervical Cancer

31 August 2006

When cervical cancer strikes

One in five women who have cancer in South Africa, have cervical cancer. We focus on this issue today on International Day of Action for Women's Health.

In the year 2000, 15 out of every 100 000 South African women died of cervical cancer. We focus on this issue today on International Day of Action for Women's Health.

What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer – one of around 200 different types of cancer – develops in the cervix, the cone-shaped part of the uterus that connects the upper part of the uterus (the womb) and the vagina.

Cervical cancer develops when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix begin to multiply out of control in response to HPV infection. Abnormal cervical cells can gather to form a lump called a tumour. Benign (non-cancerous) tumours do not spread and usually are not harmful. Malignant (cancerous) tumours, however, spread from their sources and grow into life-threatening cancer.

Cervical cancer in South Africa
In South Africa, cervical cancer made up an average of 20% of all cancer cases reported in females from 1998 to 1999.

During this period, it was estimated that cervical cancer was the most common cancer among young South African females aged 15-29 years old, accounting for 12.5% of all cancer cases reported in this age profile.

Cervical cancer also accounted for one quarter of all reported instances of cancer among South African females aged 30-54 years old and was similarly the most common cancer reported in this particular age category from 1998 to 1999.

In the year 2000, an estimated 3,424 South African females died of cervical cancer - this translates to a death-rate of 15 out of every 100,000 women.

Every year, of an estimated 490, 000 females diagnosed with cervical cancer around the world, 273, 500 die of this condition.

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst and Head of Advocacy Magdalene Seguin. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

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