Experts suggest early cancer screening for successful treatment

Medical experts have encouraged Nigerians, especially women and girls, to engage in regular screening for early detection and successful treatment of cervical cancer.

They made the call during a zoom meeting organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Nigeria and partners, on Tuesday in Abuja.

The zoom meeting had the theme: “Understanding Cervical Cancer and Its Intersection with HIV.”

The partners include John Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO), National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) and GirlsAct.

JHPIEGO Advisor on Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) and Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme(CECAP), Dr George Ikaraoha,  explained that cervical Cancer was a malignant tumour of the lowermost part of the uterus.

He added that cervical cancer could be prevented and treated if detected early.

Ikaraoha identified Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection, early sexual activity and multiple sexual partners, smoking and immune system deficiency as factors that contribute to cervical cancer.

Ikaraoha also identified long-term use of oral contraceptives, having many children, poverty, poor access to healthcare services, as well as information amid cultural beliefs as other factors.

He, therefore, encouraged regular screening as crucial for detection and treatment of precancerous conditions before they developed into cervical cancer.

“By understanding the risk factors and adhering to recommended screening schedules, women can significantly reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer and improve their chances of successful treatment, if cancer does occur,” he said.

MsOmosekeBamijoko, an Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Nurse with AHF, also stressed the need for early diagnosis, which she explained would enable experts to detect and treat cancer successfully.

She said, “Women living with HIV are more prone to cervical cancer and as such should go for screening every three years while others can be screened every five years.

“Also, the public should desist from stigmatising people to enable them access health care.”

She urged girls and women to seek health professionals, when they observe unusual bleeding, increase in foul-smelling vaginal discharge, persistent pain in the back and leg or pelvic.

Others, she said are weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite, vaginal discomfort, swelling in the legs among others.

A Programme Officer with IHVN, Dr Lois Maji, advised young girls to take advantage of the Federal Government’s free programme on HPV screening and vaccine to protect themselves against cervical cancer.

She emphasised that early detection would not only reduce the burden of cervical cancer in Nigeria but would also prevent genital warts and other genital growths in women and girls.

Senior nursing officer with AHF, MrsMenakayaAtenchong, called for more investment and affordable healthcare services, public education, engagement of community leaders and utilising culturally sensitive approaches to enhance cervical cancer screening and treatment services.

AHF Nigeria Advocacy and Marketing Manager, Mr Steve Aborisade, said that cervical cancer and HIV were significant public health issues that disproportionately affect women, particularly in resource-limited settings.

Aborisade said the meeting was organised to acquaint participants with information on the relationship between HIV and cervical cancer.

“This will also enable us to discuss preventive measures, and to share the latest research and strategies for effective management and support,”he said.

Over 160 participants from across the country joined the meeting.

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