Soliciting youths' support to fight scourge among rural women

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Ozioma Ubabukoh

Breast and cervical cancers are the commonest type of cancer among women in Nigeria. In spite of this, many patients are not diagnosed until their conditions have worsened. This has made many stakeholders including Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria and the Federal Government‘s Cancer Control Programme, to call for emphasis on early detection, particularly among youths.

The breast cancer association, in its website,, said, “Peak at 56 to 65. The mean age of 48 years at presentation is in marked contrast to reports of Caucasian patients in whom the peak age incidence is almost two decades later. Breast cancer is affecting us younger and younger and it carries in its wake grave socioeconomic consequences.”

Lamenting the scourge of breast cancer, it said, “This is a disease that kills thousands of Nigerian women in their prime each year and equally affecting millions of others, yet no sign of institutional support of any kind to tame the scourge. Anybody who has battled breast cancer or knows someone else who has, will understand the strength and courage it takes to overcome the disease. Nigerian patients are basically on their own with the burden of care resting largely on relatives.”

As part of efforts to combat the disease, the Federal Ministry of Health; the Medical Women Association of Nigeria and Glaxo Smith-Kline organised lectures on cancers that were common among women for female corps members at the National Youth Service Corps Orientation Camp in Kubwa, Abuja.

Participants at the event argued that if the corps members were sufficiently educated, they would assist in raising awareness in rural areas where they would be posted to for their primary assignments.

The Head of Cervical Cancer Screening of the National Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Fatima Mairami, counselled the corps members not to disregard any lump in the breast. According to her, such a lump can later prove to be harmful. She urged them to urgently see a doctor if any of them suspected such, no matter how little, at any point in time.

“It is recommended that every year, especially for those of you from the age of 30 that you go for an annual breast examination in a reputable hospital, which will help detect any lump or bumps,” Mairami advised.

But beyond that, the Coordinator, Cancer Control Programme, the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Patience Osinubi, urged the corps members to become breast and cervical cancer ambassadors in communities where they would be posted for their primary assignments.

Osinubi’s request was based on the fact that every lump in the breast was guilty until proven innocent. In other words, she said, “Catch them young.”

She said dwellers in the rural areas, where most of them would be posted for their primary assignments, needed their advocacy as they were neither aware of the preventive nor detective measures for any of the cancers due to illiteracy.

The Cancer Control Programme coordinator pointed out that the high rate of poverty had not helped matters, stating that those of them who would have loved to be screened were hindered by non-availability of funds.

Osinubi, however, told the corps members, “You can communicate in Pidgin English, but I want you to tell them what could cause cancer as well as teach them how to examine their breasts at home in order to detect early for lumps before they become cancerous.”

And to the male corps members, she said, ”You are equally at risk of breast cancer, though it is not as common as in women. Those of you who have girlfriends can do the checking for them. Even if she says that she is cancer free, insist that she goes to see a doctor.

“You have to watch out for prostate cancer, which is the male version of cervical cancer. Cancer of the cervix and prostrate take a lot of time in growing, so if detected early, it could be very much prevented.”

According to the President, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ogugua Osi-Ogbu, most cancers are preventive.

“The reason those in the Western world don‘t die from the disease is simply because they usually conduct periodic checks, unlike in Africa where they wait for it to come first.

“Our intention in carrying this campaign, which we have been at in more than two decades, is to get information across to the vulnerable groups so that they could be empowered to take their health in their hands.

“When they are empowered, they are going to know how to make healthy life choices, eat right to reduce the incidence of cancer and unnecessary deaths,” Osi-Ogbu highlighted.

Over 85 per cent of cervical cancers have been related to Human Papilloma Virus infection. And the Glaxo Smith Kline Representative in Abuja, Mr. Adeola Akinjomo, believes that if the virus can be prevented, then cancer of the cervix would be no issue.

He said GSK has made available in the country, since 2008, HPV vaccines at medical centres and private hospitals across the country, and said the results had been very encouraging.

“I may not be able to give you the exact figure of those who have been vaccinated, but the response has been very encouraging. At least, people are getting aware and are daily turning up to be vaccinated,” Akinjomo said.

The HPV vaccine, according to him, is taken in three doses of 016, that is, the second one is taken one month after the first one, while the third one is taken six months after the second.


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