Background: Worldwide, about 20–25 million people are affected by sickle cell disease (SCD), with 60% of patients living in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite recent therapeutic advancements resulting in improved life expectancy among SCD patients, the prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus (hr-HPV) and cervical lesions have not been studied in women with SCD. We determined the prevalence of hr-HPV and cervical lesions among women with SCD and recommended strategies for reducing cervical cancer incidence in this cohort.
Methods: Through the mPharma 10,000 Women Initiative, women with SCD attending routine visits at the Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics SCD clinic were screened by trained nurses. Screening was performed via concurrent MA-6000 hr-HPV DNA testing and enhanced visual assessment (EVA) mobile colposcopy from mobileODT.
Results: Among 168 participants screened (mean age, 43.0 years), the overall prevalence rates of hr-HPV infection and cervical lesions were 28.6% (95% CI, 21.7–35.4) and 3.6% (95% CI, 0.8–6.4), respectively. The hr-HPV prevalence rates stratified by haemoglobin genotype were 29.4% (95% CI, 19.7–39.1) and 28.6% (95% CI, 18.5–38.7) for genotypes SS and SC, respectively. None of the five women with the SF genotype tested hr-HPV positive, and the only patient with Sbthal genotype tested hr-HPV positive. Two women were EVA ‘positive’ but hr-HPV negative, whereas four were EVA positive and hr-HPV positive. Exploratory analysis revealed no significant associations between hr-HPV positivity and age, education level, marital status or parity
Conclusion: In the absence of a comprehensive national cervical screening programme aimed at including women with SCD as a special population, cervical cancer may increase in frequency among SCD patients. Thus, there is a need to build capacity and expand the scope of screening services for women with SCD.