Windhoek - The First Lady, Patience Jonathan, said there was the need to urgently address universal access to cervical cancer prevention and treatment in Africa.
Jonathan said this at the 8th conference on “Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer” in Africa in Windhoek, Namibia.
The first lady, who presented Nigeria’s position at the confab, said the Federal Government had procured and distributed Diagnostic and Treatment Equipment to 12 Federal Hospitals as part of effort to end the scourge.
“For the first time in Africa, Nigeria has also introduced residency training in Clinical Medical Physics in 2012 for cancer care enhancement.”
“This arose from the technical cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency for the conduct of the activity.”
“Nigeria is also in technical partnership with the agency to procure Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine equipment for 10 of our hospitals,” she said.
According to her, the objective is to ensure improved access to early cancer diagnosis and treatment.
She said that presently, two hospitals, including the National Hospital Abuja and University College Hospital, Ibadan, offered Nuclear Medicine diagnosis and treatment of cancers.
The first lady said that efforts were ongoing so that by the year 2016, the number of hospitals that could provide Nuclear Medicine Services would be increased to 10.
She said that subsequently, hospitals that offered radiation therapy would be increased to 11.
Jonathan advocated for the inclusion of cancer screening into regular family planning, and maternal health services.
She added that the screening must also be done at an early age.
The first lady called for health education for adolescents and young adults on factors associated with cervical cancer
She further called for improved access to Human Papilloma Vaccines (HPV) by girls between the ages of 9 and 15 years.
“There should be increased awareness and improved access to family planning and pre and post screening counseling, to prepare the women for the outcome of cancer screening.”
She expressed concern that many women had died from the disease due to late presentation of sufferers to hospitals for diagnosis and treatment.
“Many of our women are not adequately informed about this disease and others are too poor to access care on time.”
“This results in the tragedy of preventable deaths and devastation to the family.”
She said that her office was collaborating with the Ministry of Health to sustain a dedicated National Cancer Control Programme.
According to her, “our advocacy campaigns through my NGO, the A. Aruera Reachout Foundation, have enabled us to achieve some significant milestones in the areas of increased awareness.”
“As Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control and Prevention in Nigeria, I have not relented in empowering and educating our women on the need to have regular cancer screening.”
“We have also helped to promote the strategic and legal framework for implementing the National Cervical Cancer Control Policy.”
“It outlines the road map for Nigeria to control the challenge of cancer in the next few years.”
According to the policy, girls between the ages of 9 and 15 years should be Immunised with HPV.
Dignitaries at the conference included eight African first ladies, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, and other international donors and partners.