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Author Name: Suleiman Nasiru
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World Cancer Day: Society for Family health (SFH) provides hope for Cervical Cancer victims
Author: Suleiman Nasiru | March 04, 2014

The lost hope of many women suffering from Cervical Cancer in Nigeria has been rekindled with the presentation of a Cryotherapy Machine to Amina Hospital, Angwan television, Kaduna by the Society for Family health. The Cryotherapy machine is a machine used in the treatment of pre-cancerous lesion of cervix. This gesture is in commemoration of the World Cancer Day that usually comes up every 4th day of February. Speaking at the formal presentation of the Equipment, Sir Bright Ekweremadu of the Society for Family Health (SFH) said the organisation has through their social franchise system (The Healthy Family Network) partners with over 300 private health facilities for the provision of quality healthcare services that is accessible and affordable, especially to the poor and vulnerable in the society. Speaking further he said in line with the mission of his organisation to empower Nigerians, particularly the poor and vulnerable to lead healthier lives, was the brain behind this machines were presented to the management of a very serious health condition affecting Nigerian women that apparently before now has no known effective cure; a condition called Cervical Cancer and with the presentation of this machine it will go a long way in changing the landscape of managing cervical cancer in Nigeria. Defining cervical cancer to be an uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in a woman's cervix (the narrow opening of the womb into the vagina), describing cervical cancer as the most common female cancer in developing countries, with approximately 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths occurring each year. Cervical Cancer is caused by a Virus called Human Papilloma Virus, which is spread through sexual contact. Most women get a HPV infection at least once in 50 years, but only a few women develop cervical cancer. For most women, the infection is cleared by the body's natural immune system. Only persistent infection with HPV results in cervical cancer. Highlighting the risk factors, which could lead HPV to result in full cervical cancer includes multiple sexual partners, a partner who has other sexual partners, early age at first sex, early childbirth (earlier than 18); sexually transmitted infection (STIs) eg Chlamydia, HIV and AIDS, smoking and use of Tobacco, low immune system, history of many births and poor personal genital hygiene. Ekweremadu made a threatening revelation that in every two minutes a woman dies of Cervical Cancer around the world. Stressing that women in developing countries suffer disproportionately from the burden of cervical cancer and account for over 80% of all cases across the globe, regrettably, while cervical cancer in western world in the last few decades have substantially declined, but low and middle income countries has continued to experience upsurge of cervical cancer. In Nigeria, Cervical cancer is the second most frequent cancer among women with breast cancer maintaining the number one spot. Statistics revealed that about 9,659 women died annually from this disease and about 24% of women in the general population harbour the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the virus known to cause cervical cancer in women, and genital warts in both men and women. It was also revealed that Nigerian governments under the leadership of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) with stakeholders have developed the National Cervical Cancer Control Policy. Cervical Cancer screening is currently the most cost effective approach in controlling the disease, but less than 5% of women in developing countries have access to screening services. To ease accessibility, it was entrenched in the government policy, which provides a guideline for private sector involvement in the control of cervical cancer. And evidence abounds that there is increase effectiveness of leveraging the private sector to improve health outcomes. Ekweremadu further revealed that Society for Family health has developed extensive franchise networks and other infrastructure to transform access to health networks perfectly. It was also revealed that the Cervical Cancer screening and Preventive Therapy (CCS&PT) is a 4 year programme, funded by Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation through Marie Stopes International (MSI) as the principal recipient in 4 African countries (Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya). In Nigeria the project is being implemented by Society for Family health. They further advise that cervical cancer should be prevented through early detection screening and two screening methods are now available in Nigeria. VIA and PAPs smear SFH is supporting over 145 facilities with 10 in Kaduna state. Screening should take place every 3-5 years depending on the screening method and result of the initial test. And for HIV positive women every 6-12 months for the first year, then once a year thereafter, HPV vaccination for girls who are between 9-13 years, before first sex. The vaccine is effective for 7-8 years and use of condoms (male and female) regularly, to prevent HPV infection and protect against STIs that encourage development of cancer. Talking about treatment at pre-Cancer stage: there are affordable, complete and effective treatment option for cervical pre-cancer. Cryotherapy, Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP), Cold Knife Conization (CKC). Partners will be providing Cervical Cancer screening for 283,943 women aged 30-49 years, in 10 states; Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Oyo, Bauchi, FCT, Lagos, Kaduna, Delta, Edo and Niger. Stressing that Cryotherapy will be provided for an estimated 25,000 women in Nigeria in three different organisations at 156 screening and 20 Cryotherapy sites across the country.

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