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Nigeria needs a cervical cancer policy now – EXPERTS

A call has gone to Federal government to put in place a policy that would create awareness and education for Nigerian women about cervical cancer.

Government has also been taken to task on the need to promote cervical cancer screening facilities as well as include the cervical cancer vaccination into the national immunisation schedule.

Medical experts who made the call in Lagos weekend, worried over the lack of policy or legislation about a realistic education/awareness policy specifically targetted at women.

They argued that except there is established national cervical cancer screening/prevention schedule in place, the incidence of the disorder in the country would not be nipped in the bud.

In a chat with Good Health Weekly, Prof Rose Anorlu, Consultant Gynaecologist, College of Medicine, University of Lagos said what is urgently required is to educate the women.

Anorlu who spoke at the end of a 10-day interactive workshop for health workers on cervical cancer prevention said: “Government should take up this policy of vaccinating school children, and we need to create awareness very well.

We need a lot of awareness and it should be incorporated into the EPI programme bthat Nigerian children be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine before they enter secondary school.

Further, she stated: “Cervical cancer is a terrible complication. The women suffer a lot. They are abandoned and are always not likely to survive by the time they present. They are dying silently. They are dying in a painful and miserable way. We can only imagine the trauma and the pain.

There are about 500,000 new cases every year in the whole world,with about 300,000 deaths, but I would say it is more than that, because that woman who has it in the village might not be known.

It is a problem in the developing countries, in Nigeria it is very significant.”

On the cervical cancer vaccine, she said it is currently expensive about N12,000 to give the three doses, but hoped it would come down if governmet incorporates into the EPI system

Also speaking, Medical Director, St. Kizito Clinic, Ilasan Housing Estate, Lekki in Lagos, Dr. Alda Gemmani urged government at the top to set in motion moves towards the realisation of appropriate structure for women to become aware of the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer.

“What is missing in Nigeria is an education policy for the people on personal care, especially for women. There is need for women to be aware of their own dignity and to take care of themselves and also for the men to appreciate that women need the prevention exercise.

“The second thing is to promote the screening for cervical cancer. It has to be done in a proper way, and there should be follow ups. Also there must be provision of appropriate structure and machinery in place for the screening to continue.”

On the workshop which was to set up screening programme for prevention of cervical cancer using a low cost method, and treatment with cryotherapy, she noted that screening began at the Clinic in 2008. “What is important is the education of the women.

Kizito is a referral primary health care centre and we have been doing our best to reach to the women by talking about the effects of cervical cancer. We have reached a good number, but about 50-70 women are screened weekly while an esyimated 1,800 are screened every year.

She said the clinic had for the past three years, validated the low-cost method of “see and treat”, visual inspection (VIA/VILLI) and treatment of precancerous lesionswith cryotherapy.

Noting that several health workers have been trained to help in the screening and prevention exercise, she stated: “On the average, the rate of positive cases have increased.

Depending on the category of the women screened, we can treat at the early stages, but cases that need surgery are referred. The total cost for screening is N1,500 – N500 for the card and N1,000 for the screening. The card is important because the screening has to be repeated so that there can be a record.

Usually if the first test is negative we recommend that the woma comes back in one year, and if after one year it is stillnegative, we recommend she returnes after three years.

The recommeded age for screening is 30-55. The vaccine is still very expensive even though the price is going down. We need to screen before treatment because prevention can be very useful as the cancer takes very long to develop.”