The National Centre for Women Development( NCWD) recently organised a Cancer Awareness Walk and sensitisation campaign in Abuja. DEBORAH OCHENI was there
Breast and cervical cancer are the two most common female cancers in Nigeria. The statistics are alarming; their devastating impact, unbearable. Families have been left in ruins and heartbroken due to the impact of these malignant disorders whose diagnosis portends grave danger for anyone.
Nigeria has a population of about 180 million and breast cancer constitute about 12 per cent of all new cases and 25 per cent of all cancer in women.
Cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality with incidence rate ranging from 36.3 to 50.2 over 100.000 live birth. On the other hand, cervical cancer, which is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) is the second most common cancer in Nigeria, constituting about 21 per cent of all female cancers. It is estimated that about 10,000 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in Nigeria and about 8,000 deaths annually.
It is upon this scary statistics that the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD) in line with strategic policy of the administration to actualize Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) has identified Goal 3 (good health and wellbeing), Goal 5 (gender equality) and Goal 17 (partnership for the goal) to flag off breast and cervical cancer screening of women to mark year 2020 cancer awareness month.
Sad as the statistics on cancer are, the good news is that with early detection, breast cancer is treatable while cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination using HPV vaccine.
This vaccine is administered to young girls between the ages of 9 to 13 years before they become sexually active. Director General of the NCWD, Mary Ekpere-Eta, disclosed that the Federal Government has directed the continuous screening and sensitization of Nigerian women for cancer in order to reduce the scourge of malignancies to the barest minimum.
“The occasion will run continuously to ensure that no woman is left behind and no life is lost to these diseases. The NCWD clinic is open 24 hours to provide women these services ranging from pap smear to mammogram, breast ultrasound and administration of HPPV vaccine. “I wish to add that men are not left out of this as the National Prostrate Cancer Awareness month will be used to flag off Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening for men,” Ekpere -Eta said.
Wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, said she was very passionate about the issue of cancer. She disclosed that she had carried out a number of outreach activities and screening exercises in hard-toreach areas. According to the First Lady, the motivation was to detect cancer early and help women to have access to cancer treatment facilities.
She said that efforts were also on to come up with state of the art cancer centre in Nigeria. “A plan is in place and they are working very hard with experts, stakeholders, donor agencies and other supporters that will make this happen.
“Hopefully, before the end of this regime, a state of the art cancer centre will be established in Abuja. Already, we have the facilities, the structures in Kano and some other states, possibly in the six geo political zones.
That will increase not only awareness about cancer but accessibility of facilities for women, especially, our rural women to be able to have the opportunity to be screened,” she said.
UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria, Comfort Lamptey, said the decision to have the awareness campaign was very apt and commendable. “In line with realities we are seeing with cancer incidences, we know that cancer has remained the highest cause of death globally and we know that one of the ways we can address the situation is by properly educating people. When people are aware, with the right information, they receive the right information, they can take decision.
They have gone ahead of providing information for Nigerians but provided a platform for them to be screened and that is a big and wonderful tool that you have given to people. “When you give people the opportunity to screen, what you are doing is you are promoting prevention. We know that the issue of access, affordability, availability especially in Africa.
Every opportunity to provide space for people to be able to test is something that needs to be commended.
“As the UN women, we stand in solidarity with you and we commend you for what you are doing. We want to use this opportunity to call on government, private sector to actually put more money into this campaign. We want to see an end to cancer and one of the ways we can do it is to make sure that we actually put more money into this. “There are lots of reforms of global standard the UN and other partners are promoting to make sure that women’s health are addressed one of them is the Beijing declaration for action.
This year made it 25 years that Beijing action was declared in China and one of the 12 critical areas and demand that was put forward is the issues of women’s health. “If you look at the SDGs, you will know that we don’t want any woman to be left behind. So, as we are doing this, we also use the opportunity to call on relevant government authorities to the local government areas to places that we call hard-to-reach places because women in these places equally need this kind of services. Cancer is one critical condition that has defied remedy.
That is why prevention is better. Cancer is not a death sentence,” Lamptey said. Former First Lady of Bayelsa State, Mrs Timipre Sylva, said that studies have shown that 40 per cent of cancer cases can be prevented and one of the measures to prevent it is creating awareness among the populace.
“My story comes from personal experiences because I have lost very dear one to cancer and I have a friend now who is about to do double discectomy, which is the removal of the two breasts. It was detected early enough and she was medically advised to remove both breasts as there is tendency of cancer affecting the other breast within 10 years if not removed