ODSG’s Intervention On Breast Cancer/HPV

IN order to save Ondo State residents from the scourge of cancer, the State government has designated fifty health facilities across the State to provide free clinical breast examination to the residents with qualified health workers to attend to people just as the state government has put modalities in place to administer the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to girls across the State against cervical cancer.

ALARMINGLY, cancer incidence and mortality rates are increasing across Africa. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), estimated incidences for the top five commonest types of cancers in Nigeria are: breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer in that order. These cancer types and the other less common kill about 80,000 Nigerians every year.

IN 2020, estimated data from a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that there were 1.1 million new cases of cancer and 711,429 cancer-related deaths. Research published in the Frontiers in Public Health journal, in 2022, indicated that Egypt was the leading country with new cases of cancer, followed by Nigeria and then South Africa.

THE National Cancer Prevention and Control Plan (2018-2022) has revealed that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in the country annually, with a reported 102,000 new cases each year. In Nigeria, with a population of about 220 million people, complex diseases such as cancer are currently emerging as critical healthcare priorities in the present and for the future. Breast cancer accounted for the highest mortality rate, followed by prostate cancer. The WHO predicts that the number of people being diagnosed will be about 50 per cent higher. This is frightening!

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AS a large group of diseases, cancer can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body, and/or spread to other organs. The latter process is called metastasising and it is a major cause of death from cancer. Over the years, experts have highlighted suspected risk factors for cancer. They include age, alcohol intake, chronic inflammation, diet, hormones, tobacco, immuno-suppression, infectious agents, and exposure to carcinogens.

ALTHOUGH some of these risk factors can be avoided, others such as growing older cannot.

WHILE the alarming rate of deaths from cancer points to the state of medical institutions in the country, The Hope commends Ondo State government for walking the talk by providing free breast cancer screening at a time the cost of cancer treatment and management is not in sync with the income of most Nigerians willing to undergo such screening. Several studies have shown that health systems in low and middle-income countries are least prepared to manage the cancer burden, and large numbers of cancer patients globally do not have access to timely quality diagnosis and treatment.

 IN countries where health systems are strong, survival rates of many types of cancer are improving, thanks to accessible early detection, quality treatment and survivorship care. Nigeria is sorely lacking in this.

AS important as breast examination is, so is HPV vaccine which has been recommended by WHO for girls aged 9-14 as efficacious against all forms of cancers. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that has a silent harbinger of several types of cancers, including cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women aged 15 to 49 years.

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NIGERIA contributes an estimated 12,075 new cases of global cervical cancer annually. HPV infection has been identified as a high-risk factor, implicated in 95 per cent of cervical cancer cases. With 12,000 new diagnoses and 8,000 lives claimed each year, it translates to 33 new cervical cancer cases and 22 deaths every day in the country.

SINCE early detection is key to survive any disease, we appeal to women across the state to cease the opportunity of the free breast examination of the state government to get tested.

THE  HOPE also urges parents to support and ensure that their girls get HPV vaccination for protection against any form of cancer because prevention they say is better than cure. Nigerians must also begin to imbibe the culture of regular medical check-ups so they can commence treatment of any diagnosed ailment promptly before it gets too late.

WHILE  commending Ondo State government for prioritising the task of saving its citizens from cancer scourge, The Hope appeals to government to go beyond free breast screening and provide care for those who are positive. This will encourage more women to come out for screening because available statistics reveal that about 72 percent of cancer patients in Nigeria pay out of pocket for their care.

WE equally appeal for more screening centres at least one per Local Government and urges the State government to target schools for HPV vaccine and ensure that the unschooled girls are not left out.

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