The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has touted public awareness of symptoms and risk factors, including lifestyle, as efforts that could increase early detection of cancers and shoot up survival rates.
The CEO of IHVN, Dr. Patrick Dakum said this on Wednesday in Abuja, at the awareness and sensitisation programme to commemorate World Cancer Day 2023.
Science Nigeria reports that the event was organised by the International Research Centre of Excellence (IRCE) at IHVN in partnership with Medicaid Radio-Diagnostics/Medicaid Cancer Foundation.
Dakum, who was represented by the IHVN’s director of prevention care and treatment, Dr. Helen Omuh said that this may be because early symptoms are often vague or non-specific.
“The estimated five-year cancer prevalence is 233,911 cases with an estimated 102,000 new cancer cases yearly and over 72,000 deaths yearly.
“Over 70 per cent of cancer deaths,” he said, “are due to poor access to optimal care. This year’s theme, ‘Close the Care Gap’, is in line with IHVN’s mission of ensuring that individuals and communities have equitable access to quality care and treatment.”
He said that about 40 to 50 per cent of the over 374,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) supported by the Institute were women (who have a six-fold risk of developing cervical cancer) between the ages of 25 and 49 years and [they are the reason] IHVN is scaling up cervical cancer screening among the group.
“Between October 2021 and September 2022, over 17,000 women living with HIV were screened.
“Of this number, four per cent had pre-cancerous lesions that were treated and one per cent with suspected cancer cases were referred for treatment in hospitals.
“IHVN will continue to contribute towards closing the care gap for cancer prevention, care and treatment in the country,” he assured.
President of the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), Dr. Adamu Umar said that early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to treatment options for less-survivable cancers.
“These cancers are currently difficult or impossible to treat at later stages and the time from diagnosis to death is often brutally short compared to more survivable cancers.
“The most important thing is for all Nigerians to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical help at the earliest opportunity if they recognise any of the signs,” he advised.
Also, Umar called for intense awareness of all forms of cancers, noting that continued awareness creation at the health facilities and communities remained key.
“The key message is to seek medical help swiftly if you notice anything unusual for you,” he explained.
The programme manager of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) Ms. Paulette Ibeka, made a presentation on the overview of the Cancer Patients Assisted Programme in Nigeria.
Ibeka said that CHAI is expanding its product portfolio in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s essential medicines list.
She assured that CHAI will continuously support technically, financially and in all ways possible to ensure that the country achieves its goal to eradicate all forms of cancer and provide access to high-quality treatment for all Nigerians.
Meanwhile, IHVN’s senior programme officer, Dr. Victoria Igbinomwanhia disclosed that the cervical cancer screening programme in IHVN commenced in June 2020 with the training of about 110 health care workers and IHVN staff on screening using Visual Inspection with acetic acid.
“About 114 facilities across the four different states were activated to provide cervical cancer screening for women living with HIV (WLHIV) who are non-pregnant, between the ages of 25-49 years.
“The screening is integrated into the ART clinic flow through offering eligible women living with HIV (WLHIV) screening services during wait time at the clinic,” she said.
Igbinomwanhia elaborated that outreach activities were also carried out at some targeted non-activated facilities and a few were currently being activated.
“All eligible WLHIV who have screened receive pre and post-screening counselling and are provided with results thereafter,” she explained, [and] all identified with pre-cancerous lesions are treated with the thermo-ablation machine. Suspected cases of cancers are referred for further management.”
So far, Science Nigeria understands, through 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively, a total of 1040, 6271 and 17864 eligible WLHIV were screened and 23, 220 and 545 precancerous lesions identified and treated, respectively.