TOYIN ADEBAYO, ABUJA
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has hinted that , cervical cancer in women is the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide.
He added that, in Nigeria, cancer mortality rate is about 33/100,000 and an estimated 14,089 are diagnosed every year.
This, according to him, implies that, eight out of every ten of them presenting at an advance stage result in a mortality rate of about 25%”.
Adding that a total population of about 200 million people, Nigeria has about 40 million women aged 15 years and older are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Ehanire gave the hint at a Stakeholders’ Forum on the Elimination of Cervical Cancer in Nigeria, the technical sessions will be very robust and will yield the desired outcomes. I wish you very fruitful deliberations and I thank you for your attention.
He, however, said that the Federal Ministry of Health under my watch is determined to spare no effort in ensuring that the global call for the eradication of cervical cancer by the year 2030 is achieved in Nigeria.
According to him, “Available data indicates that the incidence of cervical cancer in Nigeria is about 33/100,000 and an estimated 14,089 are diagnosed every year, with eight out of every ten of them presenting at an advance stage resulting in a mortality rate of about 25%”.
He further stated that, in order to reverse this trend, we have made efforts to increase our national capacity for prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of precancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix in Nigeria.
This stakeholders’ forum is timely since it is holding barely one year to the expiration of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021). It is imperative to state that its implementation essentially started after the launch in 2019. The main objective of this meeting is therefore for relevant stakeholders to review the implementation of the strategic plan, identify gaps and recommend ways forward.
According to him, the National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of the Cervix provides a strategic direction for a national response to nib the scourge of cervical cancer in Nigeria in the bud includes; “Guidance on how to increase awareness on cancer of the cervix, screening and prevention, training of health care providers, vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), treatment of pre-cancerous lesions as well as monitoring and evaluation. It also defines roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and advocates integration of prevention of cancer of the cervix into reproductive health services at the primary health care level”.
In furtherance of the implementation of the plan, the Federal Ministry of Health has taken steps to commence national immunization programme against human papilloma virus (HPV) which is responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer and to increase screening campaigns hitherto conducted at the tertiary hospitals, through some individuals and non-governmental organizations and partners.
Adding, the Federal Ministry of Health conducted a pilot immunization against HPV in 2011 which was one of the requirements for its integration into the National Programme on Immunization. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has assured me that HPV immunization will be introduced on a national scale in 2021. As a government, we appreciate those of you who have been very active in the area of secondary prevention. I must therefore specially appreciate all our partners in this forum that working tirelessly to increase screening and treatment of precancerous lesions across the country.
He further stated that the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with the Clinton Health Access Intiative (CHAI) to scale up secondary prevention of cervical cancer in three states namely: Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna through a Unitaid- funded Programme. This Programme should have commenced in May this year but for the Covid-19 outbreak. I am aware that various partners are implementing the United States Center for Disease Control (US/CDC) funded HIV integrated cervical Cancer screening. This is also commendable.
Furthermore, majority of our tertiary hospitals currently have the capacity to perform PAP smear, colposcopy, biopsy and histopathology services essential for diagnosis of cervical cancer. Electrosurgical excision procedures such as Loop electrosurgical excision procedure/ Large loop excision of transformation zone (LEEP/LLETZ) and cold coagulation are also available in some of our centres, he added.
Ehanire hinted that the government of Nigeria has continued to upgrade Hospitals through budgetary allocation as well as public private partnership (PPP) arrangement to provide equipment such as, Mammography machines, Colposcopes, MRIs, linear Accelerators and other radiotherapy equipment for the provision of specialized treatment of cancers including cancer of the cervix. The Federal Ministry of Health is in a partnership programme with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to provide quality cancer chemotherapy at over 50% cost reduction. Some of these drugs are also used for the treatment of cervical cancer.
With late presentation and diagnosis of cancer cases, many of these patients may need palliative care. Palliative care is a holistic care and an approach to care given to persons with life limiting disease that focuses on pain and symptom control for patients and family support throughout the course of illness until death and even in their bereavement. In order to address the palliative care need of these patients, I have approved the development of a National Palliative Care Policy and the process has commenced, the Minister added.
The Federal Ministry of Health is engaging several partners towards successful cancer prevention efforts in Nigeria. This stakeholder forum is a product of such partnership. The John Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) is facilitating this forum to enable us review the National Strategic Plan for the prevention of cancer of the cervix in Nigeria.
He emphasized that the expectations this forum are the revision of the level of implementation of the strategic objectives, identification of the gaps therein and charting the way forward towards ensuring a cervical cancer free Nigeria.