Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, Friday, raised the alarm that a total of 40 million women in Nigeria from the age of 15 years and above were at risk of developing Cervical Cancer.
This was even as he said the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021) has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, saying government cannot fully implement it anymore.
Ehanire stated these at a virtual stakeholders forum on the elimination of Cervical Cancer in Nigeria, held in Abuja.
Regretting that the cancer of the cervix was not only the second commonest cancer in women globally but also the leading cause of cancer mortality in Nigeria, he said there were national response and key activities that government was embarking on for the attainment of cervical cancer-free Nigeria by the year 2030
”With a total population of about 200 million people, Nigeria has about 40 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer,” he said.
According to Ehanire, “Available data indicates that the incidence of cervical cancer in Nigeria is about 33/100,000 and an estimated 14,089 are diagnosed every year, with eight out of every ten of them presenting at an advance stage resulting in a mortality rate of about 25%.”
”In order to reverse this trend, we have made efforts to increase our national capacity for prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of precancerous and cancerous lesions of the cervix in Nigeria,” he said.
The minister also said the pandemic had distorted the federal government’s plan to fully implement some of the strategic plans in the health sector, especially those he noted, were time-bound.
To this end, he has tasked relevant stakeholders to review the implementation of the strategic plan, identify gaps and recommend ways forward.
A key-note address he presented at the occasion read in part: “There is no gainsaying that the pandemic has distorted our plans as a nation particularly in the health sector.
“This is probably responsible for our inability to fully implement some of the strategic plans especially those that are time-bound. One of such plans is the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021).
”It is pertinent to reiterate that the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health under my watch is determined to spare no effort in ensuring that the global call for the eradication of cervical cancer by the year 2030 is achieved in Nigeria.
“This is one of the reasons that I decided to be at this meeting and to personally present this keynote address amidst other equally important engagements.
“This stakeholders’ forum is timely since it is holding barely one year to the expiration of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021).
”It is imperative to state that its implementation essentially started after the launch in 2019. The main objective of this meeting is therefore for relevant stakeholders to review the implementation of the strategic plan, identify gaps and recommend ways forward.
“I am pleased to know that an overview of the strategic plan and the status of implementation will be presented to you.”
He explained that” The National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of the Cervix provides a strategic direction for a national response to nib the scourge of cervical cancer in Nigeria in the bud.”
”It includes guidance on how to increase awareness on cancer of the cervix, screening and prevention, training of health care providers, vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), treatment of pre-cancerous lesions as well as monitoring and evaluation. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and advocates integration of prevention of cancer of the cervix into reproductive health services at the primary health care level,” he added.
Going further, the minister said, “Implementation of the plan, the Federal Ministry of Health has taken steps to commence national immunization programme against human papillomavirus (HPV) which is responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer and to increase screening campaigns hitherto conducted at the tertiary hospitals, through some individuals and non-governmental organizations and partners. ”
The Federal Ministry of Health, he said,” conducted a pilot immunization against HPV in 2011 which was one of the requirements for its integration into the National Programme on Immunization.”
“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has assured me that HPV immunization will be introduced on a national scale in 2021. As a government, we appreciate those of you who have been very active in the area of secondary prevention. I must therefore especially appreciate all our partners in this forum that working tirelessly to increase screening and treatment of precancerous lesions across the country.
”I am glad to inform you that the Federal Ministry of Health is collaborating with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to scale up to secondary prevention of cervical cancer in three states namely: Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna through a Unitaid- funded Programme. This Programme should have commenced in May this year but for the Covid,” he said.