Sisters of Jannah (SoJ) in Zaria, Kaduna State, has called on the government and other stakeholders to embark on aggressive awareness campaign against cervical cancer in the North. Working in partnership with Planned Parenthood of Nigeria (PPFN), the Islamic organisation, which has women from all walks of life as members, made the call yesterday when it visited a community in Igabi Council of Zaria to screen hundreds of women on cervical and breast cancers, as part of activities to commemorate the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The group, after embarking on need assessment, resolved to walk and screen women at Fadan Sarki, Hayin Mallam Bello Gangarida and Rigasa to create awareness that would eventually lead to a cancer-free community. The coordinator, Rukayat Bello, told journalists, “We targeted the community because it is the largest in Kaduna and most of the women here are not aware of cervical cancer, which is common in the North. We came earlier to discuss with the community and they were very happy that we are coming here to create awareness and offer the women free screening on the deadly disease, which is preventable if detected on time.”
In her lecture on cancer, Dr. Aisha Mustapha of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) noted that cancers of the breast and cervix were common in the country, but the latter was the number one in the North due to ignorance. She clarified, “There is human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the causative organism of cervical cancer and other cancers like vagina and vulva cancers. It is common in HIV-positive women, women with high parity, and those with multiple sexual partners. “HPV also causes cancers in men like penile cancer.” She, however, added, “There is a vaccine for HPV. Two of these vaccines have been licensed in Nigeria – Gardasil, which is quadrivalent, and Cervarix, which is bivalent.
“There is also the nonavalent vaccine. Young girls (and boys) that aren’t sexually active from nine to 13 years should get the vaccine. There is benefit of vaccination at older ages though. These vaccines are not readily available and affordable, but can be administered at hospitals on request.” She hinted of efforts to include HPV vaccination into routine immunisation in the country. In separate chats, two women who benefitted from the screening, Farida Idris and Maryam Abdullahi, said they never heard or being screened for cancer, despite being married with children.