Cervical Cancer Prevention: Why is Tanzania Lagging in Awareness and Action?

Creator: cacaroot | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto Copyright: cacaroot

Share this article


Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that causes more than 90% of cervical cancers, is not well understood in Tanzania. Lack of sensitization to the fact that cervical cancer is a Sexual Infection has left many victims of ignorance suffering avoidable consequences. This article explores the stigma associated with cervical cancer and unprotected sex and why our efforts seem to be in disarray.

Pap tests enable doctors in the developed world to destroy precancerous cells, and a vaccine approved in 2006 has protected a generation of women against the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. The availability and access to pap tests are limited in urban areas where well-to-do women can meet the costs and are aware of the connections between unprotected sex and the virus.

As the successes noted in the fight against polio have shown, vaccines can keep deadly infections away, but in Tanzania, we have a long way to go before national campaigns to vaccinate women against HPV will reach the levels of polio. What Tanzania needs is a national plan to educate society that cervical cancer is an STI, a preventable disease that requires regular checkups to ensure progression to level 4 is never reached.

HPV rates of vaccination in Tanzania lag far behind other shots, and screening of the deadly pockets of cancer is never taken as a matter of life and death. Our focus has been on curative measures rather than preventive ones. As Cancer referral hospitals are overwhelmed with new patients every day, that means we are underperforming in keeping the virus away from ourselves, and earlier screening can detect the infection and treat it before spreading.

Read Related: Sexually, Active Women are at Risk of Cervical Cancer

A national campaign against HPV should be initiated in all schools and colleges. For a start, the categorization of cervical cancer as an STI will go some mileage to widen the societal awareness that is lacking. It is not strange to hear activists and medical practitioners downplaying HPV as a foodborne illness or a contagious ailment that one can pick on the toilet seat!

Sadly, HPV can hardly live outside the human body for a few seconds, rendering tying it by picking it up on the toilet seat very misleading. Foodborne illness? Gunky foods are normally picked as the culprit, but they are innocent and have no case to answer.

The contribution of diet to cancer risk has been considered to be higher in developed countries than in developing countries. Fatty foods may account for less transmission when unprotected sex is in comparison. Still, poor nutrition may aid or catalyze the weakening of the natural immunity, making it easier for the HPV to overcome the resistance to its passage in the human body and growth.

Cervical cancer develops through HPV infection. From clinical results, the Western diet, which is characterized by a high intake of red and processed meats, dipping sauces, chips, and snacks with a low intake of olive oil, was associated with a higher risk of HPV infection. A Western diet has been reported to lead to increased inflammation, reduced infection control and increased risk of developing auto-inflammatory diseases.

Compared to women who showed low adherence to a Mediterranean diet (MD), which includes vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, cereals, fish, and a high ratio of unsaturated to saturated lipids, women with medium adherence to an MD had a lower risk of HPV infection.

Meanwhile, the low consumption of whole vegetables (including dark green, dark yellow, and dark orange vegetables and cruciferous vegetables), fruits (including fruit juices), yoghurt, tofu, fish, and meat was not protective against HPV persistence. So, showboating veggies is part of the complex nomenclature and the dynamics involved in rebuking HPV, and many will affront! But it is not the whole package.

Supporting these clinical observations, a prospective cohort study reported that higher levels of vegetable consumption were associated with a 54% reduction in the risk of HPV persistence (odds ratio [OR]: 0.46). Human well-being has been linked to physical activity, diet balance, sleep quality, depression, and anxiety.

Most HPV risk factor studies focus on sexual factors or gynaecological infections in women. However, few cross-sectional studies account for lifestyle factors and other current diseases or diseases. Two lifestyle factors, physical activity and diet balance, demonstrated significant associations with HPV infection. Meanwhile, current diseases or disease history is not significantly correlated with HPV infection.

Studies indicate that individuals with a high level of physical activity were less likely to be infected with HPV in comparison to participants with a low level of physical activity. Most HPV infections involved a sole HPV serotype (83%), and diet balance was the most significant difference between sole and multiple HPV infections.

Also, read: A Looming Threat as Non-Communicable Diseases Surge in Tanzania

Therefore, the clinical studies recommend two solutions for improving diet balance. One way is to ensure the appropriate consumption of dairy and animal food products with vitamin A. Another way is to eat more fruits (e.g., tomatoes) or vegetables.

In Tanzania, physical activity is part and parcel of our lives for the majority of us, and consumption of Western diets is far and far between for the majority. Taking all of this into consideration means that a sedentary life and binging of fast foods are not associated with an average Tanzanian hustler.

Are Men Spared From HPV?

Since 90% or more of HPV infections are an upshot of unprotected sex,, obviously, men are not spared at all. Much of the information about the HPV virus (human papillomavirus) centres on women since having the virus increases their risk of getting cervical cancer. But the HPV virus in men can cause health problems, too. It’s important for men to understand how to reduce the risks of HPV infection.

HPV infection can increase a man’s risk of getting genital cancers, although these cancers are not common. HPV can also cause genital warts in men, just as in women.

More than half of men who are sexually active today with multiple partners will have HPV at some time in their life. Often, men will subdue and clear the virus on their own with no health problems. However, to a limited extent, the virus may cling to libidinous men, unleashing untold consequences.

One of the areas that is still not well known is whether there is a correlation between HPV and prostate cancer in men. There’s some evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase men’s risk of getting infected with prostate cancer, in addition to other cancers. Most men, out of sheer ignorance, perceive themselves as HPV vectors. Little do they know.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that affects your genitals that’s spread by skin contact with someone who has an HPV infection.

Either way, we need to develop and sustain a vigorous national fight against ignorance of the causes and symptoms of HPV, screening capacities ought to be widespread to include remote and rural areas, and treatment at earlier stages a mater of life and death.

It looks like the scripture keeps reminding us that, albeit we will commit more and more fornication, we shall not increase because God has a way of punishing those who refuse to keep His commandment through incurable diseases. Regrettably, few are capable of connecting the dots….we need to summon the belief that if we were able to throw polio on the leash, we could do the same to HPV before it becomes a national scourge.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Leave a comment
scroll to top