June 18, 2024

Cervical cancer: Regular screening, vaccination important preventive strategy – Experts


By Peter Duru, Makurdi

In a move to check the increasing cases of cervical cancer among women, medical experts have suggested regular vaccination and screening of women to prevent the disease and help achieve early detection and treatment.

This was the position by over 160 participants, stakeholders and experts at a zoom meeting held yesterday that also closely looked at the connection between cervical cancer and HIV.

The meeting was jointly organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation AHF Nigeria and it’s partners; John Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics, (JHPIEGO), National Agency for the Control of AIDS, (NACA), Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN)and GirlsAct, with the theme, “Understanding Cervical Cancer and Its Intersection with HIV.”

The panelists at the meeting urged women, especially young women to always make themselves available for early screening and vaccination as well as shun lifestyles that could expose them to Human papillomavirus, HPV, disease.

In his presentation the Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, PREP, and Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, CECAP, Advisor at JHPIEGO, Dr. George Ikaraoha, identified “HPV Infection, early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, smoking and immune system deficiency as factors contributing to cervical cancer development.”

The medical expert also identified long-term use of oral contraceptives, having many children, and socio-economic factors like lack of access to healthcare facilities, poverty and inability of women and girls to afford health care services, lack of education and access to right information and cultural beliefs like stigma as other notable factors.

He called for regular screening “for early detection and treatment of precancerous conditions before they develop into cervical cancer emphassing that “by understanding the risk factors and adhering to screening schedules, women can significantly reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer and improve their chances of successful treatment if cancer occur.”

An antiretroviral therapy, ART, Nurse at AHF, Omoseke Bamijoko, who reiterated the importance of early detection noted that “women living with HIV are more prone to cervical cancer and as such should go for screening every three years while others can be screened every five years.”

Bamijoko cautioned against stigmatization of victims to enable them access healthcare advising women and girls to endeavour to visit health professional when they manifest symptoms like “unusual bleeding between periods, after menopause or after sexual intercourse, increase in foul-smelling vaginal discharge, persistent pain in the back, leg or pelvis, weight loss, fatigue and loss of appetite, vaginal discomfort as well as swelling in the legs” among others.

Also, a Senior Nursing Officer at AHF, Mrs. Menakaya Atenchong and and Dr. Lois Maji, a Program Officer at IHVN advised young girls to take advantage of the Federal Government’s programme to get themselves screened and vaccinated.

They noted that public education and awareness Programs, affordable healthcare Services, engagement of community leaders and utilizing culturally sensitive approaches could help address cultural barriers and stigma.

The Advocacy and Marketing Manager of AHF Nigeria, Steve Aborisade emphasised that “Cervical cancer and HIV are significant public health issues that disproportionately affect women, particularly in resource-limited settings.”

He said the meeting was organized to get participants acquainted with information on the relationship between the two conditions; and to discuss preventive measures, and share the latest research and strategies for effective management and support.