An infamous British reality show star whose ups and downs captivated the nation is approaching her death the same way she has lived – on television.
And the cancer that is killing her - cancer of the cervix - is the main cancer affecting South African women. "One in every 31 women is diagnosed with cervical cancer in her lifetime and it kills over 3 400 women in South Africa each year," says Martha Molete from the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa).
In over 80% of cases, cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a very common sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that between 60 and 80% of all sexually active individuals may be infected.
Although the strains of HPV that causes cervical cancer (HPV 16 and 18) don't affect men, they are carriers of the disease and can infect their female sexual partners.
Last year, a vaccine was launched against HPV which, according to Molete, could save hundreds of thousands of lives and could eradicate cervical cancer in time.
Cervical cancer - a background
Cervical cancer is a common disease in the developing world. Pap smears are currently the recommended method of screening, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Although it is a preventable disease that is curable if detected and treated in its early stages, it remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in South African women, according to the Medical Research Council.
Factors that increase a woman's risk for developing cervical cancer include early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners and smoking. – (AP/Sapa/Health24, February 2009)
Cervical Cancer Centre
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