Jennifer’s cervical cancer journey started in the year 2013 when she felt severe itching with an open sore around the vulvar and bloody discharge from her vagina. According to her, she went to several hospitals but her condition grew worse with medications, the doctors thought it was just a mere sexually transmitted disease which could be candidiasis, urinary tract infections, gonorrhea, etc. In 2016 she decided to go to University Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada where she had a series of treatments and a test commonly known as a pap smear. Pap Smear is cervical cancer testing, a procedure to collect cells from the cervix to be examined under a microscope in the laboratory, It is another way of diagnosing cancer by looking at cells under the microscope.
Watch the video here, Viewers discretion is advice:
Fortunately for Jennifer, the result was negative for Human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the most important risk factor for Cervical Cancer but sadly, it was a wrong diagnosis.
This situation is one of the disadvantages of Pap Smear screening. For about 50 years, all cervical cytology samples were handled this way and are relatively inexpensive but it does have some disadvantages. One of the problems with conventional cytology is that the cells smeared onto the slides are sometimes piled up on each other making it difficult for a Pathologist to see abnormal cells through the microscope and most often health professional reports patients’ results as normal or negative for HPV.
According to her, surgery was done and the doctor ordered for cervical biopsy (cervical biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue for a microscopic examination by a Pathologist). The Pathologist did the diagnostic test and confirmed she had cancer.
In 2017, she was referred to the National hospital Abuja for further cancer treatment known as (chemotherapy and radiotherapy). She couldn’t afford it but she visited the hospital, unfortunately for her, the radiotherapy machine was faulty at that time.
I will pause to describe my own experience, I was at National Hospital Abuja in 2018 to carry out cancer research but I ended up as an emergency counselor and I counseled some cancer patients waiting for radiotherapy treatment. The cancer patients told me the actual cost for radiotherapy was about N600, 000, in addition to chemotherapy which was about N1,000,000 and above depending on the number of cycles a patient needs, and the payment has to be completed before the treatment. The bombshell was when they said National Hospital Abuja was the only place where one can access radiotherapy treatment in Nigeria as of 2018. I heard about three Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria that had a broken or faulty radiotherapy machine. It was a shocking revelation.
Back to Jennifer’s story, so she decided alternative treatment should be the easiest way out since she couldn’t afford conventional treatments, according to her from 2017, she started alternative treatment (herbal drugs) and she wasn’t getting better but there was a glimpse of hope when Sali Hoe Foundation took over her case, then she was bleeding profusely from her genitals, with her vulvar destroyed thereby leaving her with what does not look like the anatomy of a female vagina and those signs were symptoms of cervical cancer caused by Human Papilloma Virus infections (HPV) but she was not aware. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease.
We tried to help but we couldn’t go far because cancer have spread to vital organs in her body (stage IV). Although, at this stage, a successful medical treatment or survival rate was zero. Only Divine intervention would have saved her at that time.
Finally, she passed on in 2020 after a tough long battle, also without her husband’s support and with minimal aid from society. Early detection of cancer saves lives.
Photo of Jennifer’s vagina – viewers’ discretion is advised.
Lessons to be learned from Jennifer’s story.
1. She visited rural hospitals that couldn’t diagnose her condition early, the physician assumed she had sexually transmitted infections which could be Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, urinary tract infections, Syphilis, and these infections could mimic cervical cancer.
2. She had the wrong diagnosis, Pap Smear screening for HPV have some disadvantages, test results are not correct most times.
3. Delay diagnosis because she couldn’t access proper medical tests, the first extensive examination and proper diagnosis she had was in 2017 but she visited other local hospitals from 2013.
4. She did not know about cervical cancer, thus, ignorance remains the underlying risk factor for most Nigerian women.
5. She has no funds to pay for her hospital bills, also lack of health insurance.
6. Inadequate medical facilities/medical equipment in Nigeria.
7. Late detection can lower the chances of survival, early detection of cervical saves lives.
Take note, Sali Hoe Cervical Cancer Screening and Vaccination Center will be using an automated screening machine which is a computer image analysis system for cervical cancer screening. The automated screening machine is an innovative system that scans test slides most likely to contain abnormalities that could develop into cervical cancer. The machine greatly enhances the accuracy of screening.
How will Sali Hoe Cervical Cancer Screening and Vaccination Center tackle cervical cancer in Nigeria?
1. Establishing a free Cervical Cancer Screening and Vaccination Center where women can have free cervical cancer screening with Automated Machines, case management, vaccine, re-screening, and follow-up care.
2 . Ensure everyone affected by cervical cancer has access to the best treatment, support, and information.
3. Ensure significantly greater numbers of women eligible for cervical screening or the HPV vaccination understand the importance of cervical cancer prevention, making an informed choice, and taking up the offer.
4. Run targeted national campaigns to see improvements and changes in health policy and practice.
5. Champion quality in local health practice to promote and ensure access to the best cervical cancer prevention and treatment programs.
6. Build and foster partnerships in Nigeria and worldwide that will enable us to have the greatest impact possible.
7. Double sustainable funding by 2025.
Cervical Cancer is highly preventable and no woman should die of the disease. We call on kindhearted individuals to join our fundraising campaigns or donate to help women with this aspect of health.