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Preventing cervical cancer with HPV vaccine

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By Mercy Kelani

Nigerian women are advised to get vaccinated before exposure to the disease.

Cervical cancer, caused by an infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV) that is transmitted through sexual contact, develops in the cervix of a woman – the entrance to the uterus from the vagina. Persistent infection with HPV leads to the development of the disease. The Cancer is described as the fourth most common cancer in women with a high tendency of killing. In 2018, it was estimated that 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and it caused the death of 311,000 women.

It has also been recorded that only 5 percent of women in developing countries have been screened for cervical dysplasia, in the past five years, in comparison with 40 to 50 percent of women in developed countries. A recent study states that over 99 percent cases of cervical cancer around the world were estimated to bear HPV DNA, a virus that infects the cells of the cervix, and gradually causes precancerous cellular changes, that can develop dysplasia.

HPV vaccines help to prevent the development of cervical cancer.

In most cases, cervical cancer is preventable through Effective primary (HPV vaccination) and secondary prevention approaches (screening for, and treating precancerous lesions). However, it can be treated successfully, when diagnosed, through early detection and effective management. Also, in cases of late stages detection, the cancer is controllable with appropriate treatment and palliative care. The cancer is therefore preventable and curable, but is usually not assured that it will never come back even after undergoing treatment.

Human Papillomavirus Vaccines (HPV vaccine) prevent the development of the cancer in girls and women before exposure to the virus. The vaccines give protection against at least HPV types 16 and 18, which are the cause of the greatest risk of cervical cancer. It is also estimated to likely prevent 70 percent of cervical cancer. Some evidences have, in fact, shown that the vaccination of large number of people within a population reduces the rate of HPV infections.

8,000 women die of cervical cancer yearly, in Nigeria.

Dr. Olasupo Orimogunje, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Evercare Hospital Lekki, Lagos, in his advice to women concerning cervical cancer, asked them to embrace the vaccine. According to researchers, through vaccination, the cancer could be prevented at the preclinical stage. In Nigeria, approximately 8,000 women die yearly from cervical cancer, while the United Kingdom (UK) records this cancer as the 14th most common cancer in women. However, the introduction of vaccination and screening programs reduced the death rates to 850 yearly and is projected to reduce further in the coming decade.

Cervical cancer, however preventable it is, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of women in Nigeria, every year. Apart from the vaccine needed to prevent the disease, there is also a treatable precursor stage, which could last several years with the provision of opportunity for treatment before the cancer develops. Currently, it costs N40,000 – N50,000 to get full vaccination; this is considered a small amount, compared to the high cost of having to treat the cancer.

Charity organizations should sponsor vaccination.

The obstetrician therefore urges charity organizations to sponsor programs of vaccination and screening in order to prevent cervical cancer in women, stating that the disease has the greatest consequence on the society at large, compared to other cancers that are likely to really affect people in the older age group. Early deployment of the vaccine as a preventive measure would save the lives of thousands of women, thereby, reducing the mortality rates caused by the disease.


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