Just as she was able to manage her health battling HIV, 46-year-old Sally Kwenda was diagnosed with another serious illness -- cervical cancer. A recent study at Kenya revealed the HIV, cervical cancer link. Risks of cervical cancer are seven times higher in women with HIV.
Cervical cancer is one of the deadliest disease among women. It is the second most common type of cancer in women which accounts to up to 13 percent of female cancers worldwide. It also results to 274,000 deaths every year, 85 percent of which are reported from developing countries.
Researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Kenyatta National Hospital investigated the HIV, cervical cancer link in a three-year study involving 350 HIV patients. Results revealed that women with HIV have significantly higher risks of developing cervical cancer. A separate research revealed that HIV doubles risks of cervical cancer death according to Medscape
"It appears HIV positive women in Kenya are not losing their lives or suffering health complications due to HIV, thanks to anti-retrovirals. Instead, it is cervical cancer that is hitting them really hard and urgent action is needed to save them," Dr Fredrick Kairithia, a Consultant Obstetrician-Gynaecologist said according to The Standard- Kenya.
The researchers urged for cervical cancer screening for women with HIV. In Sally's case, she said that she felt physically strong even with HIV. She expected nothing out of ordinary when she had her routinely screening and was shocked to discover that she has stage 2 cervical cancer. The researchers added that cervical cancer screening must be an urgent priority. They suggested it must be done every six months.
Sally had to undergo multiple surgeries and her womb and cervix were removed to stop the cancer from spreading. However it looks like the HIV, cervical cancer link is greater than first presumed. Three years later, it was discovered that Sally's cancer emerged and spread to her rectum and colon. She fortunately survived after more treatment but others are not as fortunate as her. The study revealed that women with HIV are more likely to have reoccurrence even after successful treatment and have lower survival rate.