Nigeria: New Guidelines to Prevent, Screen, Treat Cervical Cancer

Nigeria: New Guidelines to Prevent, Screen, Treat Cervical Cancer
Nigeria: New Guidelines to Prevent, Screen, Treat Cervical Cancer

The Society of Gynaecology & Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) has launched the first-ever national guidelines for screening and detection of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs when the cells of the cervix at the neck of the womb grow abnormally and invade other tissues and organs. It is caused by the human papilloma virus but progresses slowly, sometimes taking up to 20 years. The virus is found in 97 out of 100 people with cervical cancer-and testing for it can help patients and medical workers know whether to follow up or not. Limiting age of screening to 25 eliminates lots of unnecessary testing for women of lower ages. Above 25 years, the screening will look for precancerous lesions which can be cut off or destroyed. Most women who are eventually diagnosed with cervical cancer are in the mid-50s but the guidelines extend screening up to 65 years. “This is one step to take,” said SOGON president Oluwarotimi Akinola at the launch of the guidelines in Abuja. “Now we have a weapon, we want to leapfrog and catch up with the developing world, because they have been able to tame this disease. Evidence considered by expert gynaecologists and obstetricians also support screening for cervical cancer in pregnancy, according to the guidelines. “In our environment, that is topical. That is probably the only time a lot of women access hospital. If we are trying to reduce maternal mortality by bringing [women] to deliver [in hospital], we also can add this on and make sure when they pass the age of delivery, they don’t die from cervical cancer,” said Akinola.
The guidelines, expected to influence training of health workers, will also remove confusion about what cervical cancer guidelines medical students are taught or assessed by. The guidelines limit screening to only women aged between 25 and 65 and pregnant women. It is the first time Nigeria will use a country-specific guidelines in dealing with cervical cancer. Up until now, it has borrow guidelines from the US, UK and even Australia.

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