The Free Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment Programme in Anambra State

By Daniel Ezeigwe

On December 20th, 2022, Anambra State Government, through the Mninstry of Health, in partnership with the World Health Organization, WHO, and Clinton Health Assess Initiative, CHAI, kicked off screening and treatment of cervical cancer for five thousand women across the state. The first-of-a-kind initiative, was scheduled to last for six months in the current batch, and would be carried out in twenty five designated health facilities across the three senatorial zones of Anambra State.

The twenty-five designated health facilities where the cervical cancer screening and treatment are run include Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka, General Hospital, Enugwu Ukwu, General Hospital, Umueri, General Hospital, Ekwulobia, Primary Health Centre, Ozalla Isuofia, Primary Health Centre, Nkwelle Umunachi.

Others are Primary Health Centre, Enugwu Otu, Primary Health Centre, Akwaeze, Primary Health Centre, Eziani, Primary Health Centre Atani One, Primary Health Centre, Atani Two, Primary Health Centre, Nawfia, Maternal and Child Health Centre, Amawbia, Child Health Centre, Atani, Maternal and Primary Health Centre, Nkpor Uno.

Other health facilities are Okofia Primary Health Centre, Umumenike Hospital, CRRHC Neni, Enugwu Aguleri Primary Health Centre, Ogbu Umueri Primary Health Centre, Nagbaba Primary Health Centre, Umunachi, General Hospital, Nanka, Primary Health Centre, Nanka One, Primary Health Centre, Umueze Isuofia and Aguata Primary Health Centre.

It is important to note that the government has been strategic in selecting the health facilities, in terms of accessibility, standard and coverage. After the current six-month timetable, the state plans to make the exercise continuous, but to be benefited only by women who are registered in the Anambra State Health Insurance Scheme.

The good thing about this novel programme is that if offers women and girls in their reproductive age a complete chance to life, without having to bear the heavy financial burden of treating the killer disease. Again, the state government, taking sincere notice of the current wreck of cervical cancer among sexually active women, has shown responsiveness to eradicating the disease completely from Anambra State.

According to WHO’s 2022 overview, “worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 604,000 new cases in 2020. Of the estimated 342,000 deaths from cervical cancer in 2020, about 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In low-and middle-income countries, there is limited access to preventative measures and cervical cancer is often not identified until it has further advanced and symptoms develop. In addition, access to treatment of cancerous lesions (for example, cancer surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy) may be limited, resulting in a higher rate of death from cervical cancer in these countries.

A large majority of cervical cancer (more than 95%) is due to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives, and some may be repeatedly infected.”

Taking cognizance of those worrisome facts, the current administration in Anambra State aims to push back the rising cases of cervical cancer and other diseases among women and girls living in the state by building formidable partnerships with reputable development partners like the WHO, UNICEF and CHAI. While the WHO and CHAI are helping the state with logistics and technical support, the state’s ministry of health is providing the ground and personnel services.

The government’s decision to make the exercise a continuous fixture and also linking it up with the state’s health insurance scheme, are equally commendable as more women would not only enjoy unhindered access to quality health care in the state but know that there is an existing dependable health system to fall back to if their cervical cancer screening results come out positive.

Noteworthy to reveal that at the rear of this amazing initiative is wife of the Governor of Anambra State, Mrs Frances Nonye Soludo, who has consistently stood up for Anambra women and children where it matters the most. As the Anambra State Cervical Cancer Ambassador, Mrs Soludo has been leading the pack in all the advocacies that have made the current exercise successful.

To solidify her keen interest in the overall success of the cervical cancer screening and treatment programme, the governor’s wife has also appelaed to the WHO to bring in smarter technologies that would make detection and treatment of the disease more seamless. As she maintained in the build up to programme, none of the selected health facilities should cost any woman more than two hundred naira to get to. Mrs Soludo is very passionate about this project, as is evident in her constant call on Anambra women to be actively involved in the exercise.

In her own words, “this wonderful programme is a way out for our women and girls from the carnage of cervical cancer. I feel deeply disturbed by the rising death count of women as a result of this treatable disease. As a cervical cancer ambassador I’m committed to see this programme succeed in Anambra State. I therefore urge our women and girls in their reproductive age to turn up for the screening, knowing how crucial it is to survival.”