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Artwork auction to aid cervical screening project in Nigeria

Publication date: Mar 6, 2007 4:16:21 PM

An art auction will be taking place in London later this month to raise money towards a cervical screening project in Lagos, Nigeria. The project is co-ordinated by the Institute for Women’s Health (IfWH) at University College London (UCL). Artworks have been donated by well-known artists, including Hilary Rosen, Ben Lowe, Sarah John and Paula Rego.

WHEN: 22 March 2007, 6.30pm

WHERE: Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE

Worldwide, up to half a million new cases of cervical cancer occur every year, and over three-quarters of these are in the developing world. 300,000 women die from the disease every year, which is more than the number who die due to complications of childbirth.

However, cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented – by means of a simple test and early treatment. It causes relatively few deaths in developed countries where screening and treatment are readily available. In the United Kingdom, 2000-4000 lives per year are saved due to cervical screening. Most developing countries lack organised screening due to cost and poor infrastructure. Awareness of cervical cancer, even among healthcare workers, is generally low and the HIV epidemic has contributed to the incidence of this disease.

The screening programme was established in 2005 by Adeola Olaitan, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at University College London Hospital (UCLH). The project was allocated £50,000 worth of funding as part of a larger donation awarded to the IfWH, to be spent on projects in developing countries. This project in Lagos, and a similar one in Kampala, Uganda, have already successfully screened thousands of women and aim to screen thousands more.

Talking about the importance of the project, Dr Olaitan said: “Cervical cancer is a huge problem in Nigeria and a small, inexpensive intervention such as cervical screening can save numerous lives. This project is an opportunity for me and my colleagues to use our skills in another country, working with local hospitals and health organisations to help educate women about this disease and to save lives.

“Currently, the majority of women seek medical help at a very late stage of the disease. At that point, there is little opportunity for treatment and there is also no access to palliative care. We want to help to continue to save the lives of Nigerian women through this screening programme, and this auction will help us to raise the valuable funds we need to do so.”

The ‘screen and treat’ programme aims to screen sexually active women aged up to 70 by using visual inspection techniques, to detect signs of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. It is then possible to remove pre-cancerous cells through a technique called cryotherapy, which is the application of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue.

Nigeria, in West Africa, is the ninth most populous country in the world, ranking just above Japan. Almost ten per cent of its estimated 126-million population reside in Lagos, a small state on the Western coast where the project is based. Once well established it is hoped the IfWH screening project will be extended within Nigeria and Uganda, and to other developing countries.

-Ends-

Notes for Editors

1. For high-resolution images (of donated artworks and images from the project itself), or press passes to this event, please contact Ruth Metcalfe in the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9739, mobile: +44 (0)7990 675 947, email: r.metcalfe@ucl.ac.uk, out of hours: +44 (0)7917 271 364

2. To arrange to interview Dr Olaitan, please contact UCL Media Relations using the details above.

3. For information about public tickets to this event, please contact Melanie Hill on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 6059, email: m.hill@ucl.ac.uk