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Cervical Cancer is the second leading cause of death amongst women in Nigeria.

Scientists: 10,000 Women Die From Cervical Cancer Annually

Scientists have voiced their concerns over increasing cases of cervical cancer in Nigeria as the country is recording an average of 10,000 deaths from the preventable disease annually and 28 deaths daily.

The scientists have called on the Federal and State governments to urgently make screening facilities and vaccines available to curb the menace.

The Principal Investigator, of the 4 Girls & Women Designathon 2023 project, Professor Juliet Iwelunmor-Ezepue, noted that the level of cervical cancer awareness, screening, and uptake of the vaccine is still low in Nigeria.

Iwelunmor- Ezepue who spoke at the Cervical Cancer Prevention Project tagged, ‘4GW Designathon 2023’ said, “Available statistics in the country show that only 10 percent of women have been screened for cervical cancer, while 14 percent of girls have been vaccinated.”

Recalling that her sister-in-law died from cervical cancer two years ago, she called for urgency to address the gaps in screening and prevention efforts.

“Her death was very painful, but the reality is that she accounted for one out of every 28 women who die of cervical cancer on a daily basis and over 10,000 who died annually from a preventable disease.”

She said the project is designed to ensure nobody dies of cervical cancer again in Nigeria.

“Our goal is to change that narrative, and that is why we are embarking on this project. In doing so, we have to let Nigerian girls and women lead the way.”

Read Also: NIMR: Cervical Cancer Kills 28 Women Daily In Nigeria

A Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at Ebonyi State University, Benedict Azuogu who commended the federal government for the inclusion of the cervical cancer vaccine in the National Immunisation Programme called for speedy implementation.

“Prevention of cervical cancer is expensive because you need to screen women for the Human Papilloma Virus within the age range of 30-65 years and vaccinate young girls between the ages of 9-26 years.

“Government needs to make cervical cancer screening accessible at all primary healthcare centres across the country so that when women go for antenatal care, they can be screened. If the vaccine is made available, the uptake will increase. Currently, the cervical cancer vaccine is not free, without donor support, some individuals won’t be able to afford it. When I vaccinated my daughter three years ago, I paid about N8,000 for a dose, how many people can afford that?”

On his part, Co-Principal Investigator, Prof. Oliver Ezechi said the idea behind the project was to prevent deaths from cervical cancer through the support of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, under the leadership of the Director General, Professor Babatunde Salako.

“The research team was also supported by the National Cancer Control Program of the Federal Ministry of Health and in collaboration with Saint Louis University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA as well as other stakeholders.”

Ezechi disclosed that the project aims to embrace a different approach to ending deaths from cervical cancer. “The typical thing is for academia to decide the way we want to solve a problem, but this time around we decided to get the girls that will be vaccinated and the women that will be screened to come up with the best way to reach them.

“Out of 525 teams that applied across the six geo-political zones of the country, 16 top teams were selected for three days of camping in Lagos to present their solution. Seven teams with top ideas will be in camp for another month to develop their ideas into a workable programme.

“Any of those ideas that work well will be tested in 30 local government areas across the country, after which they will be recommended to the government for adoption.”