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‘Over 36m Nigerian women susceptible to cervical cancer’

By Ijeoma Nwanosike
19 January 2023   |   3:55 am
Director of Research, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Oliver Ezechi, has said over 36 million women are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Prof. Oliver Ezechi

Director of Research, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Oliver Ezechi, has said over 36 million women are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

During a press briefing in Lagos, yesterday, to flag-off a five-year cervical cancer prevention project in Nigeria, the Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist described disease as the second most common cancer after breast cancer.

The project aims to stem the ill-health and deaths arising from cervical cancer, in line with the global campaign launched by World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020 to accelerate elimination of the ailment as a public health challenge by 2030.

He said: “Over 36 million women at age 15 years in Nigeria are at risk of developing cervical cancer. There are 12,000 cases diagnosed yearly, with 8,000 deaths, translating to 33 new cervical cancer cases and 22 deaths from the disease daily.”

According to WHO, cancer of the uterine cervix, commonly known as cervical cancer, is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, claiming one life every two minutes.

It is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women in 36 countries, including Nigeria. In 2020, an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths occurred, with more than 90 per cent of the new cases and deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries.

The Professor of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) said infections cause most cervical cancers.

HPV is a small, non-enveloped deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) virus that infects skin or mucosal cells.

Cervical cancer screening guidelines and strategies, he noted, have been developed in Nigeria, but coverage across the federation is still low.

He went on: “HPV vaccination is only available in private facilities. However, efforts are being made to introduce the HPV vaccine into immunisation programmes to reach the elimination targets. Organised national programmes for HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening and treatment must be implemented across the whole country and competencies of health workforce will need to be strengthened across all three pillars – HPV vaccination, cervical screening and treatment.

“It is against this backdrop that this research project, ‘Actions for Collaborative Community Engaged Strategies for HPV (ACCESS-HPV)’ was conceived to support the Nigerian national cancer prevention and control programme in its drive to join other nations of the world to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030.”