Unilorin Hosts Breast And Cervical Cancer Awareness Seminar

By Afis Olawale Odeyemi, Report From The Unilorin

Students’ Union leadership University of Ilorin, (UNILORIN) in partnership with LEAH Foundation has staged the 1st Breast and Cervical Cancer campaign on a Nigerian institution of higher learning. This campaign is the brainchild of Imam-Lawal Ummu, Vice President, Students’ Union, University of Ilorin. Olawale Odeyemi (400-Level History) Unilorin writes.

Cervical Cancer is the world’s second most common cancer in women. Every minute, one woman is diagnosed with the disease somewhere in the world and this is a threat to all women. Vaccination against the causes of cervical cancer and regular screening could help prevent this scourge but unfortunately many do not know enough about this disease. At the University of Ilorin, the campaign against this deadly virus has taken the centre stage.

Speaking at the campaign seminar at the University of Ilorin, the Vice-President (Main Campus) of the Students’ Union and initiator of the project, Imam-Lawal Ummu has noted that in a world where the lead cause of death have shifted from infectious disease to non-communicable disease; cancer represents 30% of the burden posed by non-communicable disease which is as a result of change in demographic, socio-economic and environmental factors as well as life course changes in reproductive patterns. In her words: “Survival rate after diagnosis of any cancer is unfortunately poorer in Africa unlike other developed spheres.

However, cancer mortality may be prevented if early detected through intensive and continues awareness, standard screening methods such as self-breast examination, clinical breast examination and mammography screening for breast cancer victims. Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus Infection (HPV), cervical cytology screening, visual inspection of the cervix after application of Acetic acid.” The Vice-President, Imam-Lawal Ummu lauded the leadership of the students’ union under the headship of Comrade Idris Alao, the union President for showcasing absolute commitment to the wellbeing of the females’ students and staff of the university, adding that: “I must confess that we have been given a sense of gender equality.” In furtherance of her campaign mission, Ummu announced the launching of ‘LEAH CANCER CLUB’, on the campus of the university, saying: “It is my warmth privilege to inform you that this program is not limited to awareness and screening exercise only, but has been made a life-long establishment. The leadership of our union shall inaugurate in this hall today the LEAH CANCER CLUB.”

In her address, Vice-President, College of Health Sciences (COHS), Students’ Union, University of Ilorin, Olubunmi Afuye has simply identified cancer as excessive growth of normal body tissue which has the tendency to perforate faster than it should be on a normal occurrence. Cancer, she said has been a particular case that has caused trouble among cells issues in the world generally. “Normally, when cells divide they have a particular time in which they die but cancerous cells tend to outlive their live span therefore, they keep growing and keep dividing. There are checkpoints in the cells which gives the cells instructions on what to do. Sometimes, when these checkpoints are missing or destroyed the cells keep dividing and even after abnormalities or irritation occurs in them they keep dividing and keep manifesting the trait of their growth.”

The university Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali represented by the provost, College of Health Sciences, Professor W.R.B Johnson described the seminar as landmark discourse. In his words: “Without any doubt whatsoever, this is the first time since my medical sojourn on this campus that the central student union body will be discussing health related issue, and I want to commend and pledge my support to the current student union executives for this exemplary initiative. However, Cervical Cancer is the silent killer in women and it has a waiting period of about ten to twenty years before it metamorphosis from a pre-cancerous state to a full blown disease. Apart from vaccination, there are clear evidences of its prevention which is possible through appropriate screening exercise. Symptoms and signs common to this cancer infection may include; painful sexual experience, lower abdominal or pelvic pain, bleeding in-between menses or immediately after sexual intercourse. These are major signs and symptoms which should spur a patient to visit her health care provider for diagnoses.

The guest speaker, Doctor Femi Olaleye a United Kingdom based physician and Medical Director, Optimal Cancer Care Foundation, Lagos; spoke on ‘PREVENTING CERVICAL AND BREAST CANCER THROUGH TRAINING’. He noted that the ongoing seminar on the campus of the University of Ilorin is the first on any Nigeria institution, while also insisting that death of cancer is currently a national crisis in Nigeria therefore, early detection is best protection. The Medical expert demonstrated a bit by bit processes involved in self breast examination exercise. He advised that all women should engage in self breast examination at least once every month. In his words, “Not all lumps found in women are cancerous, 80% of the time they are biennial lumps therefore every woman should do a breast cancer examination. Cervical cancer on the other hand is cancer of the cervix (the ‘neck’ of the womb) and unlike some other cancers, it is not a condition dependent on family history, because it is caused by a viral infection related to a common virus known as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is caught during intimate skin contact. Cervical cancer is most likely going to affect all sexually active women of all ages, not just older women because all women are at risk of the singular risk factor of cancer because up to 80% of women will be infected by HPV at some point in their life, but not all HPV infections cause cancer, and though most of them clear naturally, some can lead to cancer.”

Another speaker, Doctor Agodirin of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) spoke on breast cancer as a relatively unforgiving disease in Nigeria that once it develops into a full blown symptom it becomes relatively difficult to cure. He submitted that women have 4% chances of developing breast cancer. Cancer, he said develops in stages until it becomes full blown which ultimately takes the life of it victim.

In her remarks, the first lady of Kwara State and wife of the executive governor, Deaconess Omolewa Ahmed shared her bitter experience with cancer. She highlighted the lingering state of cancer which has claimed the lives of many important women as well as women so dear to her. In her words; “What am saying to you today is that cancer prevention is not about how rich or educated you are but doing the right thing at the right time. This is an unusual opportunity that has been brought to us right at our door step today and I want to implore you to seize it. Certainly, cancer kills; let’s join our hands together to kill cancer.”

Summarily, Breast and Cervical Cancer is basically the common cancer in females. It is the commonest and ecological cancer among females and it affects the cells of the breast and depends on different locations in which it occurs. Further research reveals that men also develop breast cancer although; one out of hundred cases of cancer will be a man. Emphasis here is on women and early screening and prevention is the better prevention.

Highpoints of the seminar include launching of the ‘LEAH CANCER CLUB’ on the campus of the university which is posed at reiterating the mission, aims and objectives of the campaign.

-Olawale Odeyemi writes from the University of Ilorin, (UNILORIN)