January 2018 is cervical cancer awareness month. As part of our efforts at African Health Magazine to increase awareness, we published an article on the 5 things you need to know about cervical cancer here.
Also, we are aware of the efforts of some non-governmental public health organizations, so we decided to speak to the executive director Tolulope Falowo. She is the founder and Executive Director of CancerAware Nigeria, responsible for the vision, strategy and oversight of the activities of the organisation. She is a social entrepreneur and cancer control advocate with more than 8 years of combined experience managing people and projects, doing development work and working for non-profits.
Here is the full interview as she speaks on their objectives and successes and sheds more light on the cancer fight in Nigeria.
African Health Magazine: What is the central aim of CancerAware in Nigeria?
Answer: CancerAware Nigeria is a cancer intervention charity with a focus on the prevention and early detection of cancer. Our mission is simple, yet bold – to drastically reduce the rising cancer incidence in Nigeria, especially among women, through education, advocacy and patient support. We focus primarily on breast and cervical cancer as they have the highest incidence among women in Nigeria.
African Health Magazine: What do you think are the major barriers to achieving your aim?
Answer: Funding is a major challenge for charities. At CancerAware, our work is made possible solely through donations. We receive no government funding. The reality is that we would have greater impact – reach more people with our screening and awareness programmes and also help more women who have been affected by breast and cervical cancer if we are better funded.
African Health Magazine: Do you think Cervical Cancer Awareness was properly done in Nigeria in January 2018?
Answer: Cervical cancer is preventable, yet it is the 2nd most common cancer in Nigeria. There are very few charities presently focusing on cervical cancer in the country and considering its high incidence in Nigeria, more needs to be done. At CancerAware, we continue to work to ensure that every woman in Nigeria knows that there are resources available to her for the prevention of cervical cancer.
This January, we launched our #WhatIsHPV 2.0 campaign. HPV is the major risk factor for cervical cancer in women. In the course of our work, we have discovered that majority of Nigerians do not know this. If you don’t know what causes a disease, how would you be able to prevent or identify it? HPV is the most common STI and most sexually active individuals – male and female will get it at one point in their lives without knowing. In most cases, the body’s immune system usually clears it. However, in some cases, some types of HPV can go on to cause cervical cancer in women.
Therefore, our #WhatIsHPV cervical cancer campaign aims to educate men and women about this. It is also a call to action for women to get screened. We also created a Cervical Cancer Factsheet to address some of the common questions about cervical cancer and put together a list of cervical screening centres nationwide. For more information on where you can get a cervical screening test in Nigeria,visit canceraware.org.ng
African Health Magazine: What do you think should be done in the public health sector to help with cancer awareness?
African Health Magazine: Thanks for your continuous effort Tolu, we wish you all the best and we at AHM are fully in support of the fight against cancer in Nigeria.
If you want to know more about cervical cancer, follow the #WhatIsHPV cervical cancer campaign on twitter and instagram. To access the Cervical Cancer Factsheet and a list of screening centres nationwide, visit canceraware.org.ng