Why Women are at Risk of Cervical Cancer

Year in, year out, several deaths resulting from cervical cancer are reported. The disease, experts say affects women between the ages of 15 and 50.

According to WHO, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in female.

Nigeria loses 26 women daily to cervical cancer, reports say.

In 2017, Nigeria was said to have recorded 14,000 cases of Cervical cancer.

Cancer of the cervix is also said to be common among girls from 15 years of age and women from 44 years. However, it can also be diagnosed in older women.

WHO stated that Cervical cancer grows very slowly over a period of time before it actually develops into cancer. However, it can be treated or managed if detected in its early stages.

Medical experts explained that cancer of the cervix occurs when the cells in the cervix begin to grow and replicate in an abnormal and uncontrollable way.

They further explained that when this happens, there is a malfunction amongst cells and that the cells will then form a mass that is called a tumour.

“The tumour is damaging to the body system. This malignant tumour in the cervix at advanced stage can spread to other parts of the body thereby destroying normal cells,” they noted.

It is worthy to note that all women are potentially at risk of developing Cervical cancer at some point in their lifetime.

WHO in a recent report explained that the most common risk factor for Cervical cancer includes an early age of first intercourse and having multiple sex partners.

In the report, WHO also stated that women in danger of the disease are between the ages of 15 and 50.

To WHO, Cancer of the cervix contributes greatly to the mortality rate among women in developing countries.

It stated that in 2008, there were more than 530,000 new cases of Cervical cancer worldwide and 275,000 deaths from Cervical cancer of which 90 percent of deaths are accounted for in developing countries. In the same year 75,000 new cases were recorded and 50,000 women died of the disease.

Speaking on the issue, a Radiologist from the College of Medicine University Of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu Campus(UNEC), Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, regretted that Nigerian women die as a result of Cervical cancer, which is preventable.

According to Prof. Okoye who is also the founder of Breast Without Sport (BWS), a not-for-profit organisation, the awareness level of Nigerian women to Cervical and Breast Cancers is very low.

She added “this is dogged by fear, denial , superstitious biases, procrastination, misconceptions, perceptions, stigmatization and poverty , which contribute to the late detection saga”

However, she stressed the need for more awareness creation so that women and girls will go for cervical cancer screening as it can be treated or managed if detected in its early stages.

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Quoting WHO, she said, Cancer is currently responsible for more than 7 million deaths per year, which according to her, is higher than deaths which occur as result of Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS combined.

She expressed fears that by 2020, there are expected to be 15 million new cases of cancer yearly, adding that 70 percent of which will be in developing countries, where governments are least prepared to address the growing cancer burden.

On her part, Mrs. Tewa Onasanya ,
Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Exquisite Magazine and also the brain behind Exquisite Magazine Walk Against Cancer (EMAC Walk), said it is unacceptable that women die of a form of cancer that is 100 percent preventable and has pre cancer stages.

Mrs. Onasanya who is a graduate of Pharmacology from the University of Portsmouth, said the way to prevent cervical cancer is through screening.

Her words : “Women need to be aware of this fact and
get themselves screened for cervical cancer; Going for screening is when pre cancer cells can be detected and be treated before it
becomes cancer. As a woman who is sexually
active, you are carrying the HPV (Human Papiloma Virus), and
you need to be screened for cervical cancer.”

Human Papiloma virus infection is an infection by Human Papiloma Virus . Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and resolve spontaneously. In some people, an HPV infection persists and results in warts or precancerous lesions. The precancerous lesions increase the risk of cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina.

Experts enumerated symptoms of Cervical cancer to include; Vaginal bleeding which include bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or post-menopausal bleeding ; Unusual vaginal discharge- A watery, pink or foul-smelling discharge is common; Pelvic pain- Pain during intercourse or at other times may be a sign of abnormal changes to the cervix, or less serious conditions.

In all they advised that women should start Pap test at the age of 21, adding that it is one of the most reliable and effective Cervical cancer screening methods.

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