The need for continued advocacy on prevention, inclusion of HPV vaccination as part of the national policy on immunization, strong political will and commitment on the part of government to make screening methods more affordable and accessible to women among others have been identified as part of measures to tackle the burden of cervical cancer in Nigeria.
Speaking on this year’s celebration of World Cancer Day, the CEO of Restoration Of The Dignity Of Womanhood (ROTDOW), Mrs. Olabisi Omolona stressed that cervical cancer is preventable and as such, there is the need to adopt these strategies to significantly reduce the burden of cervical cancer.
Mrs. Omolona who noted that cervical cancer is the leading cause of gynaecological cancers in sub-Saharan Africa and the second commonest cancer after breast cancer in women, said majority of cervical cancer (85%) occur in underdeveloped/developing countries due to poor education, poor empowerment of women and non-existing screening programmes.
While noting that there are about 25.000 new cases annually in Nigeria, with most affected women presenting late at the hospital, Mrs. Omolona said the disease is the only cancer with an identifiable cause; Human papilloma virus(HPV) which is a sexually transmitted and the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.
She also highlighted other identifiable risk factors to include early age of sexual exposure, multi-parity, smoking, multiple sexual partners, high risk male partner, low socio economic status, poor nutritional status among others just as she charged women to check for early signs of infection which include post coital bleeding, watery foul-smelling vaginal discharge, abnormal vaginal bleeding, post-menopausal bleeding, undue weight loss among others.
“Three vaccines are available for immunization against Human Papilloma virus which is the cause of cervical cancer. They include the bi-valent(Cervarix), tetra-valent(Gardasil) and the nona- valent(Gardasil-9) vaccines. Cervarix protects against the HPV types 16,18 most associated with persistent HPV infection and cervical cancer, while Gardasil protects against persistent HPV infection and genital warts. The Gardasil-9 is an extended protection against other HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
Another screening method is the use of smears called the PAP SMEAR and Tertiary prevention of cervical cancer involves treating women with already established disease. This include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy depending on the lesion and cancer staging”, she further stressed.