A total of about 40 million women in Nigeria (about 20% of a population of 200 million) from the age of 15 years and above, are said to be at risk of developing cervical cancer.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, on Friday during a virtual stakeholders forum on the elimination of cervical cancer in Nigeria, held in Abuja.
The minister regretted that the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer of the Cervix (2017-2021) has suffered setback owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the government could not fully implement it anymore.
While also noting that cervical cancer was not only the second commonest cancer in women globally but also the leading cause of cancer mortality in Nigeria, the minister said there were national response and key activities that government embarked on for the attainment of cervical cancer-free Nigeria by the year 2030
He said, “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.
“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.”
Further regretting how COVID-19 had distorted the plan by the government on the implementation of some of the strategic plans in the health sector, especially those that were time-bound, the minister asked relevant stakeholders to review the implementation of the strategic plan to identify gaps and recommend ways forward.
He said in his key-note address: “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 said the National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of the Cervix include, 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 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 said.
He added that the plan provided a strategic direction for a national response to nib the scourge of cervical cancer in Nigeria in the bud.