Saving Women Through Free Cancer Screening

Just before the annual World Cancer Day on February 4, 2009, Alaafia Kwara, a non governmental organisation run by the First Lady of Kwara State signified its interest in giving opportunities to women from the state to increase their knowledge about cancer as well as receive free screening on the bill of the organisation.

Immediately, machinery was set in motion for women from all over the state to benefit from this programme, which started with an enlightenment campaign on breast and cervical cancer and the importance of early detection.

Interested women were encouraged to report to the Alaafia Kwara Ilorin for registration after which arrangement was made for them to be attended to at the Maternity Wing of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, (UITH). At the hospital, they were taken through a process of counseling and then screened free while those who needed medication also got free medication. When the programme ended in the first week of April, Programme Officer for Alaafia Kwara, Mrs. Christiana Afolayan disclosed that close to 450 women participated in the cervical cancer screening exercise, while many of the women refused to be screened for breast cancer.

Afolayan who is in charge of the Indigent Medical Scheme of the organisation hinted that the scheme has dealt with several cases of cancer in the past few years and that on the realisation of the level of ignorance in the society, “the wife of the Governor decided that we must begin to get more women to understand the truth about this ailment, the need to screen and the advantages of early diagnosis.” She further explained that this was the reason for the initiative which will be ongoing as it has become obvious that more women need to be reached to reduce the number of mortalities from cancer-related disease.

Also calling on women in the state to try to utilise Mrs. Saraki’s opportunity by turning out to get screened for Cervical Cancer, a consultant Gyneacologist with the UITH, Dr. Rakiya Saidu said the First Lady of the state has shown from her action so far that anything that causes problems for women is in her heart. “She has made a lot of efforts through her Well-Being Foundation to pay a lot of money for Kwara women to come out and benefit.”

According to the gyneacologist, “the woman is there to help and she’s just waiting for women in the state to respond.” She observed that in advanced countries, there have reduced deaths from cervical cancer by 50 per cent because of the screening programme they undergo.

“It’s time we took our destiny in our hands and that’s why Mrs. Saraki came up with the idea that if money is what’s preventing women from enjoying the screening, they should come and do it at the expense of her organisation, the Well-Being Foundation. The screening is for the betterment of the family, Kwara State and the nation at large because any family that looses a woman at 40 has really lost a pillar in the house.

“Saidu wants all women to tell their friends, neighbours, announce it in Asalatu prayers and Church meetings that the Well-Being Foundation is out to save Kwara women from cervix and breast cancer, which is a deadly disease that has no cure if allowed to get to maturity in the body,” she stressed.

The gynecologist described cervical cancer as one that occurs in the mouth of the womb. Fortunately, she said it is a cancer that could be prevented, treated at a very early stage. It’s one of such cancers that can be cured if it is detected on time.

“Cervical cancer is preventable before it develops. It always gets to a stage called pre-cancer phase- if it can be detected at that stage, it can be cured even before progressing to become cancer.”

“The virus usually affects women in their 40s and that is the age when a woman is most productive to the family and society. It always affects women of low social class, so it’s a cancer of the poor,” she said.

According to the specialist, those prone to cervix cancer include women who have had many sexual partners, whose husbands or partners have many other sexual partners. Saidu likened cervical cancer to HIV in many ways. One, the mode of transmission of the virus is the same-sexually transmitted, adding that when there is cancer, the immunity of the body is reduced.

The only difference between HIV and cervical cancer is that while HIV is transferable to babies, cervical cancer is not transferable. She said that this explains why all women between the ages of 25 and 59 have to turn out for check.

“That’s why it preventable and it is treatable because during the screening check of pre-cancer stage, you can pick the very early cancer which could be treated and then the woman involved might not come down with the full blown cervix cancer,” she quipped.

So, she implored all women above the age of 25 to try and submit themselves to cervix cancer screening and since prevention is better and much cheaper than cure, Kwara women would take advantage of their first lady’s gesture.

“Symptoms of cervical cancer, which only manifest at an advanced stage, include bleeding after sexual intercourse. Another symptom of cervical cancer is that the woman may start having watery virginal discharge. Unlike normal virginal discharge, that of a woman with cervix cancer will be offensive, it smells badly.

“It has a very bad odour, but the one comes late by the time cervix cancer reaches the late stages, other symptoms such as kidney, liver disorder are involved and at that stage, it’s expensive to manage because the drugs are very expensive and whoever is infected to that level would not even achieve a cure. It’s a killer disease that should be checked at the early stage and either treated or prevented,” the expert emphasised.

Speaking on why Mrs. Saraki decided to sponsor the screening exercise in the state, Programme Director of The WellBeing Foundation, Ms. Gloria Ekpo said the awareness and screening programme was part of the efforts at raising awareness among women about the need to examine themselves regularly and seek preventive medical care where necessary as a way of increasing the survival rate of women.

Ekpo said as women presented for screening, there were counseling sessions where they are educated on the importance and procedure for self examination and possible ways of prevention.

“Her Excellency has noticed an increase in the number of women with cancer cases, the people under our health care scheme and she has come to the conclusion that we must make more women realise the need for them to screen and take vaccination against cervical cancer for instance,” Ekpo said.

She noted that at least 40 per cent of all cancer infections were preventable and that the wife of the governor was desirous of providing as much information as is available to assist women in the state.

Read the original article on This Day.