From Jude Dangwam, Jos:
rising cases of cervical cancer in women in Sub-Sahara Africa is responsible for loss of more than 60,000 lives every year, a health expert has said.
Besides, lack of national health screening programmes across developing nations have turned the region into a breeding ground for the rapid growth of the disease.
Obstetrician-Gynecologist with the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Francis Ajang Magaji, stated this while delivering a lecture at a one-day seminar on Cervical Cancer for women put together by Yakubu Gowon Foundation and Fubor East Women and Youth Development Initiative to more than 100 women and young school girls at G.S.S. Fobur in Jos-East LGA of Plateau State, recently.
According to the Obstetrician-Gynecologist, “In Sub-Saharan Africa, a woman dies from cervical cancer every 10 minutes. And cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer becoming the leading cause of cancer mortality in the region; about 62,000 women die each year from cervical cancer in the region,” he said.
He further pointed that in Nigeria, “Cervical cancer is the second most frequent cancer. 10,000 women develop cervical cancer in the country each year approximately.
“8,000 death cases are recorded from cervical cancer annually and about 80 percent of women in the country are presently in advanced stages.”
Dr. Ajang hinted also that, “ Cancer in general is responsible for more than 7 million deaths per year globally. And by 2020, projections indicates that more than 15 million new cases will be recorded every year if measures are not put in place to curb the growing spread of cancer.”
The Obstetrician-Gynecologist however said, developing nations with weak health system and structure will account for 70 percent of the new projected cases in the years ahead.
He maintained that cancer is a major health problem overtaking diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. This he said the disease is a multi-systemic disease that result from uncontrolled and uncoordinated cell division.
The cell divide at a faster rate and can detach and travel to another part of the body where they continue the same uncoordinated growth.
“A normal cell generally divide about 50 times and die. But cancer cells, unless is purposely kill, it will continue to divide forever (Unlimited growth). This make cancer cell to be considered as anarchist because they don’t follow rules, but grow into large masses(tumor), metastasis via blood vessels or lymphatic channels,” Dr. Ajang stated.
Lack of screening in the Sub-Saharan African region has place the region on a red lines. “In develop countries, successful screening programmes have rendered cervical cancer a rare disease. Screening has save 5000 lives from cervical cancer each year in UK.”
The health expert said, successful screening programmes are expensive and as such government in the Sub-Saharan African region must pulled resources in overcoming the menace of cervical cancer or cases of cancer in general.
“In United Kingdom, 160 million pounds is been set aside every year for a successful screening with 85 percent coverage. While in the United State of America, 8 billion dollars are set aside per year for screening programmes.”
Apart from creating awareness to citizens in the region, it is advisable that yearly screening is also recommended for women above 50 years and if screening consistently remain negative, the screening could stop after the age of 65 years.
Dr. Ajang lamented, “If our women had programmes design to enable them emback on screening, then cervical cancer could be prevented or could be dictated early and be treated and the woman will live a normal life.
“But because we don’t have screening programmes for cervical cancer in Nigeria like the maternal health programmes where children are been immunize monthly or quarterly for polio, citizens are left in the Mercy of God.
“Emerging a programmes like this is put together by an NGO and the community instead of a regular programmes initiated by government as a national policy to take care of cervical cancer.
“And cervical cancer is the second most frequent after breast cancer among women in Nigeria, why is it so? The reason is simple, we can’t access health facilities in our hospitals and many people don’t even have the resources to treat cancer as it often become an economic burdent to families,” he so moved.
While lamenting on the shortages in cancer’s facilities in Nigeria he said, “In the whole of this region (central part of the country) JUTH don’t have access to services that treat cancer, specifically radiotherapy we don’t have the services here.
“Once we diagnosis here, we refers patients to Zaria, Sokoto or Abuja to access the services and even in these places, you will find out that there are long queues and patients don’t get to access this services in good time.
“In some cases, the woman goes back home, loses hope and resort to faith waiting for death because they can’t afford to stay for days or weeks without enough money on them to rent a place to stay while they wait for their turn’s to reach! This is a pathetic situation and a burdens that must be given the needed attention,” he called out.