DR Omolola Salako, the Executive Director of Sebaccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, has raised alarm on the growing rate of breast and cervical cancer in Africa.
Speaking during the launch of the Sebeccly 1K Cervix Campaign in partnership with the American Cancer Society and the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) last weekend, Salako described cervical cancer as the second most dangerous cancers among women in Nigeria after breast cancer.
According to her, cervical cancer is caused by a virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and can be transmitted only through sexual intercourse to women, causing an infection in the cervix (the neck of the womb), which culminates to renal failure, haemorrhage and an eventual loss of life.
She disclosed that three out of every four sexually active women are exposed to the deadly virus, while over 9,000 out of 14,000 women, who are diagnosed of the disease, die annually.
She, however, stated that the disease can both be prevented and cured with early diagnoses as it takes about 10 to 15 years for the cells of the cervix to grow abnormal and become cancerous, a period within which screening can be done to detect the abnormality in the cervix and prevent the disease.
While enjoining reproductive women to go for regular HPV screening and tests for cervical cancer, she advised young girls from the age of nine as well as sexually naïve women to seek vaccination against the disease.
She said, “The girl-child should be vaccinated with the HPV vaccine from the age of nine. The vaccine is also beneficial to women who have not been sexually exposed to the virus, while sexually active women should go for the regular screening. Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent and the death rate is unacceptable”.
She also said that a woman could reduce the risk of cervical cancer by delaying the age of first sexual experience, avoid multiple sexual partners, alcohol and smoking.
Also speaking, Dr Kehinde Okunade, a Consultant Oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) called on authorities to improve on the awareness and treatment of the “silent killer” amongst women.
Okunade, who is also a Director, Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, said that cervical cancer was killing more women worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria put together.