By CHIOMA OBINNA
Touched by the plight of Nigerian women suffering from cervical cancer, wife of the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Christian Church, TREM, Bishop Peace Okonkwo is targeting 10,000 women nationwide for free cervical cancer screening as part of activities to mark her 60th birthday.
At the flag off of the free screening exercise held at the TREM, Headquarters, Lagos, Okonkwo who described the gesture as her own way of being a blessing to womanhood said: “Having read the statistics of how cervical and breast cancer kills women in Nigeria, I decided that on my 60th birthday, I am going to be a blessing to womanhood through this screening exercise to save women from needless deaths. Some of the women are widows and I don’t want them to die and leave their children for nobody to take care of. “I am a woman with passion and I hate to see other people suffer”, she added
Lamenting the rate at which cancer is ravaging Nigerian women, stressed the need for policy makers in the country to pay more attention to those areas by deploying more resources to nip the various diseases in the bud.
“We are taking this screening to the villages. We only kicked off from Lagos. Already we have been to Akure, Ogbunike and we are moving to other communities in the Nigeria.”
Coordinator of the programme, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Uteh said the PEACE, Providing Early Attention for Cervical Cancer Everywhere initiative founded by Bishop Peace Okonkwo was borne out of the realisation that cervical cancer could be easily be treated if discovered early.
“Cervical cancer does not have to kill anybody. We realized that in developed nations, cervical cancers no longer kill anybody anymore. But in Nigeria, it has remained the second highest killer. This is what brought about this campaign. First we are trying to create awareness about cervical cancer and to provide free screening. At least this year, we are planning to screen 10,000 women free of charge.”
The programme includes free breast examination for women and free de-worming exercise for children, free eye test for men and women, free blood pressure test, blood sugar test and free height and weight measurement, Body Mass Index. Public Health Consultant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Mrs. Onyeweyin Anthonia, who is also a specialist in primary healthcare said the exercise which is done in collaboration with the Association of Volunteers in International Service, an international non-governmental organization was very important in view of the fact that most patients with cervical cancer usually present late to the hospital when nothing concrete could be done to save them.
“We are looking at women comprehensively. We examine their breast and teach them how to carry out self breast examination and then check their blood pressure and then look at their cervix to screen for cervical cancer through a simple method that can address many women at the same time at the community level”, she explained.
Six new cervical cancer cases are seen in LUTH, every week.