Prof. Isaac Adewole, a former minister of health, says many people are unaware that constant bleeding, especially during or just after sexual intercourse, can be an early sign of cervical cancer.
Adewole, Co-Founder, African Cancer Coalition, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in an interview on Thursday that cervical cancer was preventable and treatable, if presented and diagnosed early.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cervical cancer is still the second most common cancer among women in Nigeria and the fourth most common cancer among women globally.
It is the most common among women ages 15-44 years, claiming 7,900 women’s lives each year from the 12,000 cases reported in Nigeria.
Adewole said: “The challenge in Nigeria, just like the challenge in Africa and many developing countries, is that a lot of people are largely unaware of the situation with cervical cancer.
“Therefore, when they present to the hospitals, they present largely in advanced stage, for quite a number of reasons.
“One, they are not aware of the symptoms of early stages which include contact bleeding especially during bleeding or just after sexual intercourse.
“What most women with such incidents usually do is to stay away from their men believing that the bleeding was caused by the man.
“They probably thought it was due to trauma, and some form of injury. And interestingly, when they do that, they bleeding will stop but the disease will continue to progress.
“So, by the time they will have a resurgence of the disease in terms of symptoms, the disease will be far advanced.’’
Adewole, a Professor at University of Ibadan and Northwestern University, said: “So, you have these women moving from one care giver to the other and healing homes to another.
“By the time they finally present at the final destination, maybe a Teaching Hospital, or a private facility manned by a Specialist, the disease would be advanced, and at that stage, it is beyond cure.’’
The former minister of health said about 80 per cent of cases of cervical cancer presented were in advanced stages, and that many healthcare practitioners also missed some of these early signs/stages of cervical cancer.
Adewole told NAN that the trajectory of late presentations could be moved to either no presentation at all or early presentation.
He said that according to the WHO, symptoms of early-stage cervical cancer might include: “Irregular blood spotting or light bleeding between periods in women of reproductive age.
“Postmenopausal spotting or bleeding, bleeding after sexual intercourse; and increased vaginal discharge, sometimes foul smelling.’’
On the causes of cervical cancer, the WHO says, two Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) types (16 and 18) were responsible for nearly 50 per cent of high grade cervical pre-cancers
HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people were infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.