The fight against the spread of cervical cancer is intensifying in Mzansi

More than five thousand new cases of cervical cancer are reported in South Africa each year, half of these end in death.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 80% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The virus can infect the genital area and cause from something small like a genital wart to cervical and other cancers.

About 80% of cancer cases attributable to HPV were in developing countries.

The highest estimated incidence rates are in sub-Saharan Africa, Melanesia, Latin America and the Caribbean, south-central Asia and southeast Asia.

In March 2014, the South African Department of Health launched a campaign to provide HPV vaccine to girls aged 9 and 10.

The government says the purpose of this intervention is to implement one of the four basic components of cervical cancer control, namely primary prevention.

But Dr. Zizipho Mbulawa, of the Department of Pathology, Division of Medical Virology, University of Cape Town says there is very little data on the prevalence of HPV and HPV types in women with high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL) or cervical cancer in the former Transkei region of Eastern Cape Province.


-HSIL is the name given to squamous cells on a Pap test (also called a Pap smear or cervical cytology) that appear abnormal and signal an increased risk of squamous cervical cancer. –

Mbulawa, who was recently awarded funds by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to help her research more about the HPV in the former Transkei region of the Eastern Cape Province says HSIL Cervical cancer incidences are likely to be under-reported in that province because of “an underdeveloped health infrastructure.”

CANSA is a non-profit organization set up to fight cancer and offer support to cancer sufferers also acknowledges the importance of building the capacity of a new generation of cancer researchers to further develop much-needed advances in cancer research in South Africa.

Mbulawa, says the project will determine the prevalence of specific HPV genotypes in HSIL cervical cancer biopsies from hospital-based recruitment sites Nelson Mandela Academic hospital based in Mthatha.

Mbulawa says biopsies will be transported to Centre for HIV and STI’s Cape Town laboratory where the HPV detection and genotyping will be undertaken.

“All laboratory staff working on the project will receive training on the purpose of the project, the nature of the tests involved and the importance of confidentiality,” Mbulawa told CANSA.

“As part of the HPV vaccination strategy in South Africa, it is important to have baseline data on HPV so that the impact of vaccination can be assessed. This project will provide baseline data on the HPV types present in invasive cervical cancers and high-grade cervical lesions in unvaccinated women.”

Mbulawa says data from this project is important for monitoring trends of HPV genotypes in the former Transkei region.


  • Current guidelines recommend that women ages 21 to 29 have a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 are advised to continue having a Pap test every three years, or every five years if they also get the HPV DNA test at the same time.
  • Women over 65 can stop testing if they’ve had three normal Pap tests in a row, or two HPV DNA and Pap tests with no abnormal results.
  • If you or your child has warts of any kind that cause embarrassment, discomfort or pain, seek advice from your doctor.


Meanwhile, CANSA, one of the largest funders of cancer research and advocacy in South Africa is calling on research to apply for funding and grants.

CANSA says the purpose of this funding is to support high-quality research that will reduce risk, advance management and improve outcomes for the most common cancers in South Africa.  Apply here (closing date 31 May 2017).

Sources: Mayo clinic,, and CANSA


About Impilo lenhle

Impilo lenhle is a subsidiary of BrightSpark Group. The group is led by S’thembiso Hlongwane, an award-winning journalist and herbalist.
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