Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, has approved the development of National Palliative Care Policy in order to address the palliative care need of cancer patients in the country.
Mr Ehanire disclosed this at a Virtual National Stakeholders’ Forum on the Elimination of Cervical Cancer on Friday, organised by the National Cancer Control Programme, NCCP, of the Federal Ministry of Health, FMoH.
The virtual meeting was organised by NCCP in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s International Vaccine Access Centre and Direct Consulting and Logistics.
The minister told the stakeholders that the process of developing the Policy had begun.
“With late presentation and diagnosis of cancer cases, many of these patients may need palliative care; palliative care is a holistic care and an approach to care given to persons with life limiting disease.
“It focuses on pain and symptom control for patients and family support throughout the course of illness until death and even in their bereavement,’’ he said.
According to him, the Federal Government has continued to upgrade hospitals through budgetary allocation as well as public private partnership, PPP, arrangement to provide equipment.
He gave the equipment as Mammography machines, Colposcopes, MRIs, linear Accelerators and other radiotherapy equipment for the provision of specialised treatment of cancers including cancer of the cervix.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is in a partnership programme with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, CHAI, and the American Cancer Society, ACS, to provide quality cancer chemotherapy at over 50 per cent cost reduction,’’ he said.
Mr Ehanire said the ministry was collaborating with the Clinton Health Access Intiative to scale up secondary prevention of cervical cancer in three states namely: Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna.
“The ministry is scaling up prevention in the three states through a UNITAID- funded Programme. This Programme should have commenced in May this year but for the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I am aware that various partners are implementing the United States Center for Disease Control (US/CDC)-funded HIV integrated cervical cancer screening. This is also commendable.
“Furthermore, majority of our tertiary hospitals currently have the capacity to perform PAP smear, colposcopy, biopsy and histopathology services essential for diagnosis of cervical cancer.
“Electrosurgical excision procedures such as Loop electrosurgical excision procedure/Large loop excision of transformation zone, LEEP/LLETZ, and cold coagulation are also available in some of our centres,’’ he said.
In addition, he said the ministry was engaging several partners toward successful cancer prevention efforts in Nigeria.
“This stakeholder forum is a product of such partnership. The Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Centre, IVAC, is facilitating this forum to enable us to review the National Strategic Plan for the prevention of cancer of the cervix in Nigeria,” he said.
In furtherance of the implementation of the plan, Ehanire said ministry of health had taken steps to commence national immunisation programme against human papilloma virus, HPV.
“HPV is responsible for over 70 per cent of cervical cancer and the desire is to increase screening campaigns hitherto conducted at the tertiary hospitals, through some individuals and non-governmental organisations and partners.
“The federal ministry of health conducted a pilot immunisation against HPV in 2011 which was one of the requirements for its integration into the national programme on immunisation.
“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, has assured me that HPV immunisation will be introduced on a national scale in 2021.
“As a government, we appreciate those of you who have been very active in the area of secondary prevention.
“I must, therefore, specially appreciate all our partners in this forum that are working tirelessly to increase screening and treatment of precancerous lesions across the country,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Abdullahi Abdullaziz, said the Federal Ministry of Health had developed a National Strategy Plan for the Prevention and Control of Cancer, (2017 to 2021).
The permanent secretary said the plan outlined and controlled all the activities in respect of cervical cancer nationwide.
“We are gathered to access the level of implementation, identify gaps in implementing the plan and identify ways of closing the gaps.
“I urge you to come up with suggestions to ensure effectiveness of implementation of the plan.
“We welcome further collaboration with our partners to achieve our goals and objectives for the effective implementation of the plan,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of the Cervix provided a strategic direction for a national response to curb the scourge of cervical cancer in Nigeria.
It includes guidance on how to increase awareness on cervical cancer, screening and prevention, training of health care providers, vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, treatment of pre-cancerous lesions as well as monitoring and evaluation.
It also defines roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and advocates integration of prevention of cancer of the cervix into reproductive health services at the primary health care level.