In this report, Patience Ivie Ihejirika and Faith Oluomachi Ekeh, take a look at Nigeria’s struggle to combat cancer, one of the leading causes of deaths globally.
Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases characterized by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries that can then invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs.
The disease, according to reports, can affect almost every part of the body and has many anatomic and molecular subtypes that each requires specific management strategies.
The most common types in men are lung; prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer while breast, colorectal, lung, cervix and stomach cancer are the most common among women.
A recent report has also revealed that breast cancer is one of the commonest form of cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in their prime while colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in Nigeria men after prostate and liver cancer, resulting in approximately 49,190 deaths in Nigeria, in 2016.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and accounted for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 death is due to cancer.
In Nigeria, cancer leads to over 72,000 deaths per annum. This number is set to increase given that there are over 102,000 new cases of cancer every year.
However, WHO in 2016, revealed that cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of surviving, less morbidity, and less expensive treatment when identified early.
This therefore calls for accelerated action towards improved cancer care, achieving global targets to reduce deaths from cancer and provide health care for all consistent with universal health coverage in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, February 4th annually has been set aside globally to commemorate the World Cancer Day. The event gives millions of people across the globe the opportunity to actively participate in cancer awareness programmes.
In Nigeria, the 2018 World Cancer Day gave many Nigerians the chance to reflect on how to make a difference as the day was marked with series of cancer awareness activities including a walk, race and cycle against cancer, organized by the Project Pink-Health & Psychological Trust Centre in Abuja. The organisers said it was an opportunity for then to create awareness, provide free cancer screenings, support people battling with cancer, mobilize medical missions to the poor, rural and hard-to-reach communities with the aim to reduce the incidence of cancer and phase-out late/advanced diagnosis of cancer in Nigeria.
The event also highlighted the need for early identification of cancer, improved access to diagnosis and treatment and universal access to palliative care for all children.
Speaking at the event, Sadiq Daba, a veteran Nollywood actor, and a survivor of leukemia and prostate cancer employed the federal government to equip the country’ hospitals with the required cancer treatment machines and equipment to help fight cancer.
“Government should please upgrade our hospitals with the required cancer treatment equipment and machines and provide enabling environment for our expert doctors on cancer treatment,”he said.
The actor also noted that early diagnosis of cancer is important to provide victims with the greatest likelihood of successful treatment.
Meanwhile, the minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has expressed government commitment to saving the lives of Nigerians.
According to him, the commissioning of a new radiotherapy machine at the National Hospital Abuja(NHA), recently, would provide for easy access to radiation treatment for Nigerians.
The minister, who stated this in his world Cancer Day message, disclosed that another new machine kindly donated by SHELL Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) is within the country and would be operational at NHA in the next few months.
“ The facility at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) should be offering full and un-interrupted service by June 2018.He further stressed the commitment of FG to rolling out nationwide screening for breast and cervical cancer in women and prostate cancer among men in 2018.
Prof. adewole however regretted that despite these giant strides, there remained some factors militating against these efforts to effectively combat the scourge of cancer in Nigeria.
The key barriers to treatment of cancer in Nigeria, the minister said, included: poor awareness, poor health seeking behaviour, low level of non-governmental investments, low number of skilled health care personnel, funding gaps, amongst others.
To surmount these barriers, Adewole said, government was committed to the development of the Public Private Partnership strategies to address the funding gaps and manpower shortages.
He therefore called on interested stakeholders in the national and international arena to partner with Federal Ministry of Health so that more laudable achievements could be recorded in the management of cancer cases in the country.
He also used the occasion to call on Nigerians to always engage in physical exercises to reduce the risk of having cancer adding that any form of physical activity that is consistent will promote healthy living, reduce obesity and sedentary lifestyle, and other non-communicable diseases.
He stated that this year’s theme was geared towards exploring individual and collective drive in reducing the global burden of cancer.
The campaign outlined actions that communities and individuals could take to save lives, achieve greater equity in cancer care and make fighting cancer a priority at the highest political level.
On individual’s role in fighting cancer, Adewole said, individuals could make healthy lifestyle choices by engaging in weekly physical activities for at least two and half hours for adult and an hour for children.
Other lifestyle modifications that the minister mentioned included avoiding tobacco smoking and chewing, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and staying safe under the sun. He also emphasized high index of suspicion for early symptoms and signs of cancer was key, because finding cancer early makes it easier to treat and cure.
Spelling out roles expected from communities in the fight against Cancer, the Minister praised various organisations and professional bodies that have dedicated sporting programme not to rest on their oars. Adewole also said that communities should dispel myths that led to stigma and discrimination against people living with cancer among them.
He called on governments to commit adequate resources to reduce cancer death and provide better u of life for patients and survivors.
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