Home Health & Food NIMR launches campaign to curb cervical cancer

NIMR launches campaign to curb cervical cancer

by James Davies

Amarachi Okeh

The Nigeria Institute of Medical Research has launched a programme aimed at curbing the incidence of cervical cancer in the country.

The programme tagged ‘Cervical Cancer Prevention Project’ is themed ‘For Girls and Women by Girls and Women’ was announced during a media briefing by the institute in Lagos on Wednesday.

The programme, according to NIMR, is targeted at increasing the awareness of vaccination, screening and treatment of cervical cancer amongst girls and women in Nigeria.

Speaking at the flag-off of the campaign, the director of research at the NIMR, Prof. Oliver Ezechi, said the project will utilise the special bond between mothers or female caregivers and their daughters to improve HPV vaccination of young girls and HPV screening of mothers and caregivers.

According to experts, HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and often impacts young adults who become sexually active early in life.

While there are over 100 types of HPV, 14 are cancer-causing with HPV 16 and 18 causing 70 per cent of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. There has also been evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis and oropharynx, experts say.

According to Ezechi, the prevalence of cervical cancer in Nigeria is 24.8 per cent, adding that more than 90 per cent of new cases and deaths occur in low, and middle-income countries which Nigeria is part of.

Ezechi added that over 36 million women over the age of 15 in Nigeria are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Speaking further at the press briefing, Ezechi said mothers and daughters share a special bond, adding that the special bond will be leveraged to drive the project.

The research project, he added, aims to develop new HPV vaccination campaigns for young girls and HPV self-collection campaigns for mothers by crowdsourcing open calls and participatory learning by communities.

he said, it will also be used to determine the effectiveness of a final campaign for the uptake of the HPV vaccination among young girls and HPV self-collection among mothers and finally, the project will estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of the crowdsourced campaign.

Ezechi, who is also a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, bemoaned the lack of knowledge about cervical cancer in Nigeria.

He said, “although cervical cancer screening guidelines and strategies have been developed in Nigeria, coverage across the country is low.

“HPV vaccination is only available at private facilities. However, efforts are being made to introduce the HPV vaccine into immunisation programmes.

“To reach the elimination targets, organised national targets must be implemented across the whole country, and competencies of the health workforce will need to be strengthened across all three pillars which is vaccination, cervical screening and treatment.”

Some participants at the event, who were mostly secondary school students, while speaking with our correspondent noted that they had not been aware of what cervical cancer is until the programme was organised by NIMR.

Sharon Iwuamadi, a student of Regal Memorial Baptist School, said, “I have not heard about it before, it was when we were invited to this programme that is I know about it.”

Asked if she would be willing to take the vaccine, the secondary school student said she could take it only if approved by her parents.

On her part, the Vice Principal Admin of the same school, Mrs Ruth Oke, stated that efforts are being made to get approval from parents to vaccinate eligible girls, especially those between 9 – 13 years of age.

With the knowledge she and the school authorities have acquired about cervical cancer, she revealed that “We have been making efforts to educate young girls about cervical cancer.

“You know girls nowadays, no matter the training you give to them, you cannot vouch for where they go, and coupled with the influence of peers on them, we are trying to create awareness on the platform for their parents.

“We sent a consent form to the parents so each parent will sign the form that they would like their children to take the vaccine. What the school is doing is to create awareness so that the parents will know that it is for their own good.”

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