The Risk Of Cervical Cancer In Nigerian Women

Cervical Cancer is noted as one of the most common and the largest killer cancer of Nigerian women, after breast cancer.

And the escalation in casualty rates  is due to low level of sensitization efforts on public awareness campaign programmes  on dangers inherent in cervical cancer infection, when undetected and untreated, worsened by poor access to proper medical care for cervical cancer treatment.

It is sad to note that there are more than one hundred thousand cervical cancer-related deaths among the Nigerian women annually.

Cervical cancer or rather cancer of the cervix can be best explained as the type of cancer that starts in a woman's cervix, which is the entrance to the womb from the vagina. As in most cases of cervical cancer, the absence of manifestation of noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease are possible occurrence commonly in women over the age of 30years.

And there are two types of cervical cancer, called adenocarcinoma of the cervix and squamous cell respectively.

However, majority or many of the cervical cancer cases in women occur in those that had previously been infected with the disease causing infection called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a group of viruses, instead of a single virus, as there exist more than one hundred different viruses.

The infection began when sexual activities occurred and the spread of HPV in women in the country is in the ratio of 1:3 made possible by active engagement in sexual activities within the period of two years, with high chance of developing the infection at some points in their lives.

Therefore, it is necessary to add that every sexual active woman is at risk of contracting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and should be conscious of regular screening in order to detect the virus early, as cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women and graded as the seconded most frequent cancer in women from the ages of 14-45 years.


Signs And Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer has no particular symptoms but women are advised to look out for signs like pains around the cervix, weight loss, foul smelly discharge, weakness and painful intercourse.


Diagnosis And Investigation

Diagnosis or screening is a vital tool for early detection of cervical cancer as it has no particular signs and it is important for Nigerian women to begin screening for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous changes from the age of 21years, as early detection is necessary in handling the disease.

The following screening methods are used to diagnose the presence of the disease infection.

  • HPV Test: This test is used to study the cells retrieved from the cervix for infection with any types of HPV that are most likely to originate cervical cancer.
  • PAP Test: This is another test used to detect an abnormal growth in the cervix including cancer cells that can increase the risk of cervical cancer.


In the course of the detection of the cervical cancer, these special scientific instruments are used to collect and conduct further re-examination of the collected samples of the cervical cells.

  • Endocervical Curettage: This instrument resembles a small-spoon shape called also (curet) and a thin brush to collect a tissue sample from the cervix.
  • Punch Biopsy: This instrument is for the collection of small samples cervical cancers. Importantly, further tests to determine the extent of the cancer is too vital for the physician to know the line of treatment with the tests.
  • Visual examination of the bladder and rectum are done to see the inside by use of special scope.
  • Imaging Tests: Consist of CT scan, position emission tomography (PET),X-rays and MRI, these used to conduct proper examination.


Preventive Measures

Moreover, there is no single method used in preventing cervical cancer completely but there are things that can reduce the risk.

However, cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer disease to prevent and there is no need to entertain its fear among the women, when the needful are done for effective prevention and control.

And the preventive measures women can adopt to reduce the risk of cervical cancer include:

  • Abstinence from cigarette smoking.
  • Encouraging the girl-child vaccination with HPV vaccine from the age 9-14 years, as a primary preventive measure and control.
  • Desisting having unprotected sex with multiple partners and use of sexual artificial objects.
  • Maintaining the window period of screening to detect abnormality in the cervix to prevent and manage the cervical cancer, as the gestation period for the cell of the cervix to grow abnormal and become cancerous is about 10-15years.

Therefore, this necessitated the need for the women of reproductive age to undertake regular cervical cancer screening for those who are sexually active and more vulnerable to infect, as early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions is the best detection and treatment against the disease.

In order to reduce the high incidence rate of this disease, it becomes important for the authorities to come out with effective strategies for better health programmes to fight the menace of this deadly infection, through;

  • Increased cervical cancer awareness campaign across the country.
  • More efforts in provision of cervical cancer vaccines for the child-girl vaccination as major primary preventive measures.
  • Cost-friendly drugs and subsidized rates for the women.
  • Improved access for the treatment of the disease.
  • Provision of better medical equipment in teaching hospitals, federal medical centres and etc.

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