Cervical cancer, a malaise that can no longer be ignored
A statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the World Cancer Day, Monday 4th February revealed that nine out of ten women who die from cervical cancer are from poor countries, and that if action is not taken, deaths arising from the disease will increase by almost 50 per cent by 2040. The most prevalent forms of cancers in the African region include cancers of the breast, cervix, liver and prostate.
According to WHO “women are potentially at risk of developing cervical cancer at some point in their lifetime.” Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the lowest part of the uterus.
The most common risk factor for cervical cancer includes an early age of first intercourse and having multiple sex partners. The women at risk of the disease fall between the ages of 30-50. However, it can also be diagnosed in younger women also older women.
The WHO clearly states that new diagnoses can be decreased by ensuring that 9-14 year old girls globally are vaccinated against Human papillomavirus (HPV). HVP is a group of viruses that are greatly common globally, 70% of cervical cancers are caused by two of these types of viruses.
Amongst women in developing countries, cervical cancer is often not identified until it has reached an advanced stage. There is only limited access to preventative measures and treatment of late-stage cervical cancer including as surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy is also highly limited, leading to greater death rates in these countries. Though screening is a cost effective strategy deployed in decreasing the problem of cervical cancer globally, its adoption especially in developing countries is still appalling. Part of the barriers to access is that most cervical cancer screening services in Nigeria are not adequately coordinated.
Most services are established in urban areas while semi-urban and rural residents are often neglected. There is also low awareness of women about cancer of the cervix and cervical cancer screening. Since early case detection through screening is the most cost effective activity for reducing the morbidity and mortality from cancer of the cervix, reproductive health experts and policy makers need to demonstrate more commitment in creating awareness about cervical cancer.
In Nigeria, the National Cancer Control Programme was developed in 2008 with the aim of decreasing the morbidity and mortality related with cancer and its socioeconomic impacts. A cervical cancer control plan for screening and early detection of cervical cancer and human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination for primary prevention in girls of 9–15 years within the framework the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) established. However, the level of implementation of this programme in Nigeria is still questionable.
More screening centres should be established in the rural areas especially and tests should be available at affordable costs. Also the present screening programmes which are mainly in urban areas need to be decentralized for improved efficiency. It is important to integrate cervical cancer screening exercise into the mainstream healthcare services in the hospitals. The number of healthcare workers with requisite skills to conduct cervical cancer screening should be increased Nigeria.
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