Addressing Cervical Cancer in Nigeria
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
Cervical cancer, which is caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), presents a significant public health threat to women on the African continent. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that all but one of the top twenty countries worldwide with the highest burden of cervical cancer in 2018 were in Africa.
Cervical cancer progresses slowly from the precancer stage to invasive cancer, and it is entirely curable if diagnosed and treated early. The tragedy is that while this type of cancer is one of the most preventable, poor access to prevention, screening and treatment contributes to 90% of deaths.
In Nigeria, Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality among women. Available data indicates that over 14,000 women are diagnosed every year, with an estimated 8,000 deaths annually. Poor access to effective screening and treatment services is the major factor that has led to the high burden of cervical cancer, and there has been low utilization of screening programs in Nigeria due to a lack of awareness of the disease and inaccessibility due to excessive costs.
MedShare was recently approached by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Nigeria to help with their efforts to screen for cervical cancer. CHAI is a global health organization committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low-and middle-income countries. CHAI began operating in Nigeria in 2007 with a focus on increasing access to pediatric HIV treatments. CHAI aims to reduce the prices of essential medicines, diagnostics, and other health products. They have successfully introduced life-saving pediatric and adult medicines to combat HIV. Using this same model, CHAI works with the government and partners to drive uptake of diagnostics and treatments for hepatitis C, malaria, syphilis, and cervical cancer.
CHAI needed tens of thousands of disposable speculums to support their low-cost cervical cancer screening program. A speculum is a duck-bill-shaped device that doctors use to see inside a hollow part of your body and diagnose or treat disease. One common use of the speculum is for vaginal exams. Gynecologists use it to open the walls of the vagina and examine the vagina and cervix.
Fortunately, MedShare had an established partnership with Cyalume Technologies. Cyalume donated over 73,000 disposable speculums, valued at over $160,000, to MedShare in support of CHAI’s cervical cancer screening program in Nigeria.
“I would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the MedShare team for the donation and the effort to make this happen. I am pleased to inform you that they are already being distributed to facilities! We will continue to share updates as the program progresses, thank you.” ~ Zainab Sageera Tukur, CHAI – Nigeria
Often cost is the primary barrier to early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer. However, CHAI, with support from Unitaid, is working to scale up safe, effective, and affordable cervical cancer screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions in Nigeria and other countries.
The donated speculums will facilitate the screening and potential treatment of over 73,000 women in Nigeria. This is a fitting example of powerful partnerships leading to improved health outcomes. Now over 73,000 women can be properly screened and treated for cervical cancer before the onset of a more aggressive version endangers their lives.