Education and awareness campaign is very important because if people aren’t aware of the risk factors of the HPV, they won’t come out for screening. The awareness campaign shouldn’t be a one-off information but continuous. Stakeholders need to collaborate with Media organisations and produce concise and clear jingle on the infection, and be airing it continuously as part of their corporate responsibilities; says Dr. Akinfolarin Adepiti, Health Consultant, OAU, Ile-Ife, Osun State Nigeria.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), a sexually transmitted infection has been identified as the cause of cervical cancer. The Centre for Disease Control says it is the most common Sexually Transmitted Infection and some effects caused by it can be prevented by HPV vaccines.
Different types of HPV have been identified. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancer. But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening, according to CDC.
It was reported that about 43 million HPV infections were recorded in 2018 (three years ago), and that many of the victims were in their late teens and early 20s.
The question now is, since HPV was identified as the cause of cervical cancer and for the fact that it takes decades before the infection matured to cancer, why are women still dying from the disease? As it was recorded by the Centre for Disease Control that every year, nearly 12,000 women living in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer—even with screening and treatment.
The reason for this preventable death can be traced to lack of awareness due to the fact that many young ladies who have encountered STI treated it with over-the-counter antibiotics without prior knowledge of the future effects if the infection happens to be HPV.
HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually-active will get it at some time in their life if they don’t get the HPV vaccine_CDC. Vaccine for prevention is available and according to health experts, it is highly effective and beneficial to women between the ages of 9 or 12 years and for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.
Meanwhile, vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years.
However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their healthcare provider about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination.
HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, according to medical experts because most sexually active adults have already been exposed to HPV.
Information about this have been in the custody of health experts and organisations but not available to the public. Imagine a 36yrs old woman in Ondo exclaimed to hear this during the commemoration of the World Cancer day marked by the State Government in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, where Dr. Adepiti took the audience through cervical cancer lecture, the cause, prevention and treatment.
According to the Nigerian Medical expert, cervical cancer is the only one with identifiable cause with high level probability of eradication. But due to the absence of adequate awareness campaign, many women die avoidable death.
As earlier stated by the Centre for Disease Control that HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually-active will get it at some time in their life if they don’t get the vaccine; which means if we start vaccinating our young girls now by taking the campaign to the schools, religious gatherings, government offices, in a few years time we might have a world free of cervical cancer and other related diseases caused by HPV.
Thanks to BRECAN, a Non-governmental organisation founded by the wife of Ondo State governor, Arabinrin Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu, 24years old breast cancer survivor who has been championing advocacy for prevention of the disease for over 20 years before she becomes the First Lady. Through BRECAN’s different awareness initiatives, the information has been passed to the nooks and crannies of States where the association has branches. Many women are now self-conscious about their health and have been enlightened on how to carry out Breast Self Examination, BSE. Because breast cancer’s cause is still unknown like cervical, early detection has been identified as the saviour.
Before now, despite the fact that cancer is one of the leading cause of death globally, the annual observance has not been given much attention in Ondo State and its environs, as it’s been done now, courtesy of BRECAN. Wheres many have died from it silently due to late diagnosis.
According to the Yoruba adage which says, “Ejo to ba fara e han, kinpanilara”, i.e. the snake that reveals itself doesn’t harm”, in as much as the cause of Cervical cancer is known, it should be easy to prevent.
This is why BRECAN has taken it upon itself to also add cervical cancer campaign to its focus, as declared by the founder during the 2021 World Cancer day celebration in Ondo State, with the theme “Ondo State Breast and Cervical Cancer project: Awareness for 21000”.
According to her, the organisation would, henceforth, be a one-stop shop for both breast and cervical cancers for women to get first hand information and support.
BRECAN therefore, used the occasion to launch two awareness cards with information about the disease, one in PINK colour for Breast Cancer and the other in TEAL, representing cervical cancer.
It was concluded that the struggle to eradicate or reducing cancer to the barest minimum is a collective effort, in accordance with the theme of 2020/2021 World Cancer day, ‘IamAndIwill’.
It was said that HPV causes other cancers including the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus and can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). But with the availability of the needed tools and facilities which are vaccination, screening, all these are treatable.
The need for screening adults is of utmost importance as it is indicated by the Centre for Disease Control that many may have the infection without symptoms at the initial stage of exposure, but will develop to cancer after 10-20years, as there is a pre-cancer stage which can be detected through screening. What this portends is that, if we embark on massive and aggressive awareness publicity on the need for people to voluntarily come out for screening and the provision of vaccines for the young ones, it could be tackled.
Individuals who are highly proned to the cancer are those with early exposure to Sexual intercourse, those who have more than one sexual partners, and women who give birth often, known as medical PARITY.
The recommendation from world health organization to individuals against contracting HPV include; vaccination as primary prevention, cervical screening for adults, and the use of latex condoms for those who are sexually active; but since HPV can also cause genital warts which cannot be prevented with the use of condom, sexually active individuals are advised to be in a mutually monogamous relationship – or ‘have sex only with someone who only has sex with you’.
Mary Agidi writes