Concerned by the low level of public awareness on cervical cancer in the country, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, Lagos, raised the alarm over the high number of cases of the preventable disease.
The Director of Research, NIMR, Professor Oliver Ezechi, who spoke to journalists, lamented that an estimated 36 million women aged 15 years and over, are at risk of developing cervical cancer in Nigeria.
He said with 12,000 cases diagnosed and 8,000 deaths recorded annually, it was equivalent to 33 new cervical cases and 22 deaths daily.
Describing cervical cancer as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in Nigeria, Ezechi noted that it is the second most common cancer after breast cancer among the country’s female population.
“Cancer of the cervix, commonly known as cervical cancer, is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. Currently, one life is lost every two minutes to this disease. Importantly, it is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women in 36 countries including Nigeria.
“In 2020, an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths occurred, with more than 90 percent of the new cases and deaths occurring in Low and Low Middle Income Countries, LMIC. In Nigeria, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer and second to breast cancer among its female population.
“Over 36 million women over 15 years in Nigeria are at risk of developing it. There are 12,000 cases diagnosed annually, with 8,000 deaths translating to 33 new cervical cancer cases and 22 deaths from the disease daily.
“It is one of the most preventable and successfully treatable forms if it is detected, diagnosed early and managed effectively. Like many cancers, the earliest cervical cancer is detected, the higher the chances of survival.
“The high burden of cervical cancer and resultant number of deaths occurring in women in Nigeria are attributable to poor access to effective screening and identification of precancerous lesions, late presentations in the health facilities and inadequate treatment services.”
The Director of Research, who also lamented that Nigerians lack health-seeking behaviour, said, “My heart beats every time we talk about health and people talk of lack of money. Everyday, Nigerians are saving money for parties, clothes and shoes, but we want to quantify health.
“How much is the vaccination? When we started the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, test in the country, it was unaffordable. However, because of the publicity and intervention, now it is affordable.
“We will not be able to vaccinate all the young girls in Nigeria, but we are trying to create that movement that would make the federal and state governments move into action and prioritise it.
“People organise shows and call musicians to perform for huge sums. What will stop them saying. “I am going to vaccinate all the girls in Yaba local government?’ I am not saying entertainment isn’t important but one needs to be healthy before one can be entertained.”