#Impact365: “One woman dies of cervical cancer every hour in Nigeria” | Tewa Onasanya of EMAC calls for women to get screened

Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix — the lower part of the uterus (womb). This is sometimes called the uterine cervix. The fetus grows in the body of the uterus (the upper part). The cervix connects the body of the uterus to the vagina (birth canal). Infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. Doctors believe that a woman must be infected with HPV in order to develop cervical cancer.

These and many more are some of the facts about cervical cancer but not many Nigerians are aware that this type of cancer is just as dangerous as every other type, although it is highly preventable if detected early enough.

Exquisite Magazine is a lifestyle magazine that celebrates innovative women across the media and entertainment space. Its Founder and Editor in Chief, Tewa Onasanya is spreading the wings of the magazine beyond the glitz and fancy photos. With its Cervical Cancer Foundation, Exquisite Magazine is going all out to get women to understand the dangers of cervical cancer if not prevented and to get them screened among other things.

In this interview with YNaija’s Impact365, Tewa Onasanya tells all that there is to know about Exquisite Magazine Cervical Cancer Foundation:

Can you please tell us more about Exquisite Magazine Cervical Cancer Foundation?
The Exquisite Magazine cervical cancer foundation is a foundation aimed at creating more awareness for cervical cancer, through awareness events like our EMAC walk and cervical cancer prevention week. These events are held to increase the awareness of Cervical Cancer. Every year Exquisite magazine raises funds to be able to offer free screening to women.
The aim is to continue to increase the awareness for Cervical Cancer, screen at least 1000 ladies or more for cervical and Breast Cancer and encourage parents to vaccinate their children against HPV (human papilloma virus) which causes cervical cancer

Exquisite Magazine is a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Why did it venture into this initiative?

We ventured into this initiative because we felt that as a magazine that caters more for women, it’s not all about just getting their outer appearance in top form but also getting their health in top form.

Why did you choose to focus on campaigning about Cervical Cancer of all the types that exist?

We focused on this because it is just too sad that our women are dying from a cancer that is preventable. It breaks my heart. People don’t even know about cervical cancer, some know a little. I mean look at this, we are in January, a cervical cancer awareness month and there are only a handful of us talking about it. You will agree that if this was October, we would be seeing pink everywhere. Cervical cancer is just as important and more importantly, it presents a pre-cancer stage which can be treated before it becomes cancer. People need to know not all cancers are pink. Cervical cancer is teal.

January is cervical cancer awareness month. What are the awareness programs EMAC has lined up?

We have a few events lined up. From the beginning of the month, we created a new Instagram page separate from the Exquisite Magazine page to bring the awareness closer. So we have been giving information and advice on that platform. We are launching a #smearit campaign next week with some female celebrities and the male celebrities are doing videos to help raise awareness. We are asking everyone to join the #smearit selfie challenge. From the 23rd of January to the 4th of February which is World Cancer Day, we will be giving out fliers at different locations, a fundraising brunch and a pop-up sale. These are being done for awareness purposes and to raise money to screen the less-privileged and vaccinate children in some public schools. We also have a twitter session tagged #askadoctor where everyone can ask us any questions about cervical cancer.

What is the rate of diagnosis of CC among women in Nigeria in the last 5 years?

The rate of diagnosis is unbelievably high for a form of cancer that is preventable. 250/100,000 women. One woman dies every hour in Nigeria of cervical cancer. Alarming isn’t it? Yet it is one of the few cancers that presents a pre- cancer stage which makes it treatable before it becomes cancer. Another research shows 64% of Nigerian women diagnosed with cervical cancer die annually.

From your campaigns and screenings in the past, what are the common myths that Nigerians have about CC?

One big myth from the small number of people who know about cervical cancer is that when the man wears a condom you are protected. This is not true as the HPV (human papilloma virus) can also be transmitted from skin to skin contact.

Have you considered or are you working on taking this campaign to rural parts of the country where women do not have access to information, social media etc?

Yes, definitely, we do this every year. We go into rural areas to speak to women and men and screen them. We even offer free treatment to the ones that present a pre-cancer stage of cervical cancer. We use the services of chiefs and town criers to get our messages across.

What are the major challenges you have faced since EMAC foundation kicked off?

Funds and people not understanding and knowing how important and lifesaving this is. We are constantly raising funds so as to be able to continue our awareness and preventative campaign and free screenings.

Is the Federal Ministry of Health helpful with campaigns and projects?

To an extent they are. We also work with different cancer centers to help get to as many as possible.

Where should people go to get screened this month?

This month and when they mention Exquisite Magazine, everyone including children will get a 10% discount on their vaccines at Optimal cancer care center in Surulere. There is also free screening there every Friday. We can be reached on 08098886184 or email [email protected] for more details and for our other partner locations.

Any last words?

Our current #smearit campaign and #getscreened campaign is to encourage everyone to go and get screened either through the visual inspection method or through a pap smear. We also want to encourage parents to make enquires and get their preteens and teens vaccinated. The vaccine is best used when the person is not sexually active yet. Sexually active adults can still take the vaccine when they have been screened and given an all clear. Please follow us on Instagram @emac_cervicalcancerawareness , or call or email us for more information and also dates of our free screening location during our cervical cancer prevention week, 23rd of January – 4th of February.

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