LAGOS – Some medical experts have advised women to go for regular cervical cancer screening to aid early detection and reduce the burden of the disease in the country.
They made the appeal in an interview with newsmen in Lagos against the backdrop of the commemoration of Cervical Health Awareness Month.
The United States Congress has designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month to create awareness, highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection.
A Radiologist, Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, who is also the Founder, Breast without Spot Initiative, an NGO, said that cervical cancer was killing more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
“We conducted a survey and discovered that cervical cancer is the second killer cancer among women, and Nigeria is also the 10th in cervical cancer death worldwide.
“Forty-eight million women are at risk, 17,550 women are diagnosed yearly, 9,659 women die annually and 26 women die on daily basis in Nigeria.
“It, therefore, requires a proactive political commitment to fight the scourge,” Okoye said.
She said cervical cancer was 99 per cent preventable, adding that prevention was necessary for the reduction and control of cancer burden in the country.
The radiologist urged government at all levels to improve and strengthen the healthcare system in terms of funding, infrastructure upgrade and training of medical personnel.
She also encouraged Nigerians to imbibe regular health check to prevent late detection of cancer cases and cancer mortality.
Dr Joy Agbara, a Senior Registrar, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said it was unacceptable for women to die when cervical cancer was preventable, treatable and curable.
Agbara said that lack of awareness, resources and low budgetary allocation to the health sector had contributed to the country’s high rate of cancer burden.
She urged women to go for regular screening for early detection and prompt treatment.
“Cervical cancer has no particular symptoms, but women should look out for signs such as pains around the cervix, painful intercourse, foul smelly discharge, weight loss and weakness,’’ she said.
Another Radiologist, Dr Omolola Salako, who works with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, said that cervical cancer could be successfully treated when found at early stage through a Pap test.
Salako said that cervical cancer was caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus or HPV which could be contracted through sexual contact with someone who has it.
“Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives. An infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer.
“ That is why it is important for women to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find changes in the cervical cells before they turn into cancer.
“ If you treat these cell changes, you may prevent cervical cancer,” she said.
Salako also said that HPV vaccine was not harmful to the reproductive health of African women, and called for the acceptability of the HPV vaccine.
“HPV vaccine has international approval and African women were part of the international trials.
“The result after years of trials continues to show benefits of the effectiveness in the prevention of cervical cancer without any side effects,’’ she said.