An estimated 14,550 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in Nigeria, many of them presenting at an advanced stage, making it difficult to save them. Out of this figure, 9,659 women die yearly, a situation that is preventable. Programme Director on Cervical Cancer at the Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, Dr. Kehinde Okunade who disclosed this said although cervical cancer is preventable, anyone who has ever had sex was at risk of acquiring the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer.These were contained in his presentation at a free medical checkup organised by the Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre for staff of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Lagos last week when almost 200 staff of NOA accessed free medical checkup including cervical cancer and BMI screening.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection with most sexually active men and women being exposed to the virus at some point during their lifetime. HPV infection appears to be involved in the development of more than 90 per cent of cases, but most people who have had HPV infections, however, do not develop cervical cancer. Cervical cancer typically develops from precancerous changes over 10 to 20 years. Cervical cancer is a cancer arising from the cervix.
It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. To limit one’s risk of contracting the HPV, Kehinde urged Nigerians to limit the number of their sex partners, choose a sex partner who has had no or few prior sex partners, avoid smoking cigarettes and keep a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Similarly, he said they must use condoms consistently and correctly during sexual activity, get regular screening (Pap smear) and follow up, if necessary, and ensure the HPV vaccination for those aged nine to 26 years.
Reacting to the development, the Director, NOA in Lagos State, Waheed Ishola said cancer was not a death sentence. “If we take the necessary precaution and do cancerscreening test on time and if cancer was discovered on time or not left for later stage, the cancer could be cured.
“Our people should cultivate the habit of living healthily; and ensure that they go for medical tests from time to time, especially the womenfolk,” he added. Ishola described the screening programme as collaboration between Sebeccly and the NOA with the aim to propagate anti-cancer message to the generality of the people.