Top 10 Diseases Killing Nigerian Women – Protect Yourself


Thousands of Nigerian women die daily from different medical conditions that are largely preventable and treatable, with the presence of well-equipped health facilities manned by experienced health workers. In this article, we are looking at the top 10 diseases killing Nigerian women and what they can do to protect themselves.

1. Obstetric hemorrhage

This is the number one cause of maternal mortality in Nigeria. Statically, Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) ranges from 166-1549 per 100 000 live births with a national average of about 1000/100 000 live births (FMOH 2001). Obstetric hemorrhage can be defined as bleeding that occurs before the onset of labour, during delivery and within 24 hours after vaginal or caesarean delivery. We must all join hands and fight to reduce maternal mortality. All pregnant women must ensure that they only patronize adequate health facilities manned by well-trained medical staff. All deliveries must be handled in secondary/ tertiary health facilities because every woman deserves to have a safe delivery.

2. Malaria during pregnancy

Malaria is caused by plasmodium spp with anopheles mosquitoes as the vector. Its incidence and severity is even higher in pregnant women where it is responsible for 63% of all clinic attendance, 11% of all maternal deaths and 70.5% of morbidity in pregnant women. Although there have been several measures put in place to curb malaria, the disease has continued to ravage the lives of many. Pregnant women must protect themselves by sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito net, keeping the environment clean and free from stagnant water. They should also present themselves for adequate and prompt treatment by a trained health personnel.

3. Hypertensive diseases in pregnancy including Pre-eclampsia/ eclampsia

About 11% of maternal deaths are due to hypertensive disease and about 7% of pregnancies are complicated by this condition. This disease is a spectrum that includes all clinical conditions characterized by the presence of systemic hypertension and/or significant proteinuria (protein in the urine) during pregnancy. A blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg is usually termed as significant. Also, pre-eclampsia is a clinical condition in pregnancy characterized by hypertension, significant proteinuria with or without swelling of the legs occurring after 20 weeks of gestation while eclampsia, a more severe form or pre-eclampsia is complicated by series of convulsions (fits). Together, these conditions are amongst the top 10 diseases killing Nigerian women. It is advised that all pregnant women should attend antenatal care for early diagnosis and treatment.

4. Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the commonest cancer worldwide and every year, it is a top disease that kills Nigerian women. It is an uncontrolled growth of normal breast cells leading to lumps in the breast with associated destruction of breast tissue and metastasis to distant organs. Each year, more than 1 million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed worldwide. In Nigeria, breast cancer accounts for about 16% of all cancer deaths in women. The burden of breast cancer is high in Nigeria which has a low awareness level among women. The outcome of breast cancer is usually poor in Nigeria because of late presentation (advanced cancer) and lack of adequate medical facilities. Nigerian women can protect themselves from this disease by monthly self-breast examination (SBE) for lumps. The presence of any lump should necessitate prompt medical evaluation by a physician.

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5. Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is the second most common female cancer worldwide but more than 70% of cases are seen in developing countries. In Nigeria, it is the second most common cancer affecting women, it has an incidence of 250/100,000 women, 9922 new cases are diagnosed yearly with more than 8,000 deaths yearly. However, cervical cancer can remain in a premalignant stage for up to 15 years before turning to cervical cancer. With lack of awareness, low socioeconomic status and poor health care seeking attitude cervical cancer continues to kill Nigerian women yearly. It is recommended that all women aged 20 – 64 should be screened periodically for cervical cancer. It is carried out every 3years in women aged 45yrs and below and every 5years in Women aged > 45years.


Undoubtedly, HIV/AIDS is among the top 10 disease killing Nigerian women. Globally, Nigeria ranks number 3 in terms of individuals infected with HIV. The national prevalence rate stands at an average of 4.4%. In Nigeria, women are at a particular risk of being infected with HIV and yearly, thousands of Nigerian women die from this global scourge. Protection as they say is the best treatment for HIV/AIDS. Prevention can be ensured by abstinence from sex and being faithful to one uninfected sexual partner. Condoms should be consistently and properly used for those who have casual sex.

7. Malnutrition

This may sound so untrue or impossible, but malnutrition and its complications also adds to the list of diseases killing Nigerian women daily. Malnutrition is defined as a reduction in intake, poor absorption or utilization of nutrients (macro and micro) for the optimal functioning of the human body. This can lead to iron deficiency anemia, heart failure, reduce immunity and inability to fight invading micro-organisms, loss of tissue and organ functions. This ultimately leads to death.

8. Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is caused by the absolute or relative inability of the pancreas to secrete insulin which enable cells utilize glucose. This creates a state of hunger in the midst of abundance. The incidence of diabetes has been on the increase among Nigerian women and it currently ranks amongst the top 10 disease killing Nigerian women. This can be as a result of western life style, sedentary life style, change in diet and obesity. Yearly, thousands of Nigerian women die from this disease which can be managed with the use of diet modification, drugs and/ or insulin.

9. Hypertension

This silent disease needs no introduction. Hypertension is an increase in the blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg. Untreated hypertension affects vital organs of the body. It affects the brain leading to stroke, damages the kidneys by causing kidney failure, it affects the eyes leading to loss of vision and blindness, and it also affects the heart leading to heart failure. It has contributed to the death of several women in Nigeria.

10. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a lower respiratory tract infection of bacterial origin. It causes the lungs to solidify leading to chest pain, difficulty in breathing and inability of the lungs to provide oxygen for the tissues and cells of the body. Pneumonia is a medical condition that can be treated with antibiotics which are easily available yet many Nigeria women are being killed yearly by pneumonia.


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