September is gynaecological cancer awareness month. It is an opportunity to discuss gynaecological cancers and give women (and men) important information about prevention strategies and symptoms of early disease so that more lives can be saved.
We, in the UK, are fortunate that healthcare is free at the point of access. For example, having cervical screening costs nothing more than the effort to make an appointment and attend.
Spare a thought therefore, for women in countries with a less developed healthcare system. I have been in Lagos, Nigeria, this week raising awareness about gynaecological cancers and also learning about the obstacles to accessing healthcare.
Watch the Morning Rave interview on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSZzHhOtF6A&feature=youtu.be
There is no National Health Service. Health insurance is in its infancy and, at the time of writing, does not include cancer screening. The centres that offer cervical screening are few and far between and women may face a long journey to and from the screening centre. This makes it expensive for most and unaffordable for some.
Undeterred by these and other obstacles, Cancer Aware Nigeria (https://www.canceraware.org.ng/), a charity that promotes awareness of breast and gynaecological cancers, continues to work relentlessly to educate women and improve access to health screening and treatment.
It has been a busy week as Ms Tolu Falowo, the Managing Director, and I have taken part in several radio and TV shows on the subject. There have been challenges – a rat in the reception of the studio on the first day horrified us! On the next show we had to teach the male host to say “gynaecological cancer” without stumbling – never mind “oncologist”!
There have also been numerous successes. Cancer Aware Nigeria have been giving out free cervical screening vouchers to guests who call in to the show and answer questions correctly. Encouragingly, we have also had male callers who have won vouchers for their female relatives.
There is a lot to do in this crowded, often chaotic, vibrant and optimistic city but things will get better
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Author: Adeola Olaitan MD FRCOG
Date: 5th September 2018