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Posts Tagged ‘mortality’

By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

It’s signs and symptoms are simply frightening! And the moment you starts noticing them, it is either getting late, late or too late. That is Cervical Cancer for you-one of the leading terminators of our time.

Vaginal bleeding, contact bleeding or (rarely) a vaginal mass may indicate the presence of malignancy, moderate pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal discharge are symptoms, in advance stages metastases may be present in the abdomen, lungs or elsewhere, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, pelvic pain, back pain, leg pain, single swollen leg, heavy bleeding from the vagina, leaking of urine or faeces from the vagina, and bone fractures

As I thought through these horrific symptoms and tried to picture  an average woman experiencing them, and I simply uttered “God forbid” to myself.

In fact, If I were to advice Margaret Hardisty,  author of the best selling, witty yet soul searching book “Forever my Love: What every man should know about his wife”, I would definitely asked her to include a chapter perhaps with the title “Your wife’s health, your real deal”.

And nothing would have prompted this move other than the feeling that many men are going to be widowers this year, just because they refused to ask their wives to go for a pap smear-the medical term for  screening for Cervical Cancer which is unarguably one of the leading causes of death among women in developing countries.

For many sexually active women, and their equally sexually active male partners, this disease is not something to be neutral about .It is contributing immensely towards reducing life expectancy in Nigeria.

As part of the International Women’s Day (IWD)Celebration this year, some organizations in Lagos took the initiative to not only educate women on the dangers of cervical cancer but also conduct free screening. Of course not many women took advantage of this exercise.

It is disheartening that men can afford to take their wives out and buy them clothes, shoes and all brands of designer make-ups and perfumes. But not many would be humane enough to say “honey have you gone for a pap smear to know whether you are at risk for Cervical Cancer?”

What about the ladies themselves? Aren’t they bothered about their lives and health even if their husbands are not?

Indeed for any woman -one way to show that your life is worth more than Swiss lace or a pair of designer office suits or dinner gown is to go for a pap smear and commence early treatment or put in place preventive measures as far as cervical cancer is concerned.

Professor Rose Arnolu, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital stunned everyone at the Vanguard Allure in March 2009 when she stated that “Cervical Cancer,” not malaria, childbirth or HIV/AIDS “is the highest killer of women in Nigeria”.

Not a thing to smile about:In addition to HIV and maternal mortality,African women also have cervical cancer to contend with

Not a thing to smile about:In addition to HIV and maternal mortality,African women also have cervical cancer to contend with

Well, one may say “that is the usual statistics  they always give to frighten us and make us come to hospitals so that doctors can collect or money ”. But I wonder what Professor  Arnolu stands to gain by frightening people about Cervical Cancer.

Cervical Cancer according to Professor Arnolu is  is malignant cancer of the cervix or cervical area which is kills a woman every two minutes. It may show up inform of vaginal bleeding but symptoms may be absent until the cancer is in its advanced stages and by this time very little can be done to salvage the situation. Treatment consists of surgery in early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in advanced stages of the disease.

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection according to experts  is a necessary factor in the development of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV vaccine effective against the two strains of HPV that cause the most cervical cancer has been licensed in the U.S. and the EU. These two HPV strains together are currently responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancers. Since the vaccine only covers some high-risk types, women should seek regular Pap smear screening, even after vaccination

A pap smear screening can identify potentially precancerous changes. Treatment of high grade changes can prevent the development of cancer. In developed countries, the widespread use of cervical screening programs has reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer by 50% or more.

A pap smear  involves a doctor or nurse inserting a spatula into the vagina to take a sample of cells. These cells are then taken to a lab for inspection. Although slightly an uncomfortable procedure, it is quick, painless and saves lives.

Women are advised to go for a pap smear at least once every year. The good news is that, if spotted early enough, cervical cancer is very treatable. So, it is important that women everywhere take regular smear tests. But women who have many sexual partners (or who have sex with men or who had many other partners) have a greater risk and that is because HPV has been identified as been a sexually transmitted virus. So, the risk involved with respect to risky sexual behavior is not just HIV as we all have HPV to contend with.

Looking at its profile or can we say its Curriculum Vitae alone there no news saying that Cervical Cancer is is frightening and deadly! In fact the only good thing (if there is any)about it is that it can it give a 15-year notice before it finally seals any chances of survival. And that is some lee way for any wise woman to act and save her life from this silent plague.

But how can you save your life from something you don’t know anything about. Results from a Health Information National Trends survey, conducted by the US National Cancer Institute in 2005,a only 40% of American women surveyed had heard of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and only 20% had heard of its link to cervical cancer despite the fact that an estimated 3,870 of them will die of cervical cancer, and around 11,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed each year.

The Nigerian picture is even  more pathetic as the mortality figure is even thrice that number and the level of ignorance of the disease among women is even pathetic. While most women in Nigeria can tell you about the latest Nollywood movie and the latest Organza lace in town, very few can tell you what HPV or cervical cancer is. This is understandable! Knowledge can be scare at times. But what do they do with it when you make it available?

Recently, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) in partnership with the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme( NCCPP) embarked on a nationwide free screening and treatment of cervical cancer project for women above 18 years in the country – a programme aimed at reducing the scourge in the country by the end of 2009. The programme was focused mainly on the screening and treatment of 100, 000 women, especially the under privileged women in the rural areas.

According to Dr. Kin J-Egwuonwu  the NCCPP National Coordinator  less than 0.1 per cent of Nigerian women availed themselves this screening and less than 1 per cent are aware of the existence of this killer disease, thereby killing a woman every one hour.

It takes about N1000 to screen one woman(at government laboratories) but a good number of under privileged women cannot afford it. Even those  who can  afford it would rather buy recharge cards and make  fruitless calls or better still  walk into  the nearest fast food joint and eat packs of burger and hotdog  and wash it down with a 50 cl of soft drinks than  go for any medical screening.

Someone might want to say…”what’s your business if I spend my money on recharge cards or on burger, chicken pies and ice cream?”.That question can be considered if the person asking is young and not sexually active but not if you fall within this category of women considered by experts as highly prone to Cervical cancer: women who  started  sexual activity quite early, women who were young at first pregnancy or at young age when they had their first child, women who have many children. women who smoke, women living with HIV and women who have had other sexually transmitted infections in the past.

Perhaps this is where the man comes in as it takes two to tango in all of these high risk situations. Being the head of the house, the man can demonstrate leadership by asking his wife and sexually active daughters to go for a pap smear. That way he would be saving himself a lot of pain and anguish. Please don’t ask me how to indentify your daughter who is sexually active!

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