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Cancer Killed 41,000 Nigerians In 2018 – WHO

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As Nigeria joined the world to marks this year’s World Cancer Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the country recorded over 116,000 new cases of cancer and over 41,000 deaths in 2018.

WHO Officer, Dr. Clement Peters, disclosed this yesterday at a media roundtable on World Cancer Day, with the theme: “I am and I will”, in Abuja.

He said that cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide as new cases and deaths from the disease continue to rise.

According to him, in 2012, there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths, whereas in 2018 there were 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths.

“If the current trends are maintained, the cancer burden in Africa is projected to double from 1,055,172 new cancer cases in 2018 to 2,123,245 cancer cases by 2040,” Peters said.

He identified the challenges facing cancer patients in most African countries as poverty, late and poor cancer diagnosis and lack of medical coverage.

According to him, the key drivers of the increasing cancer burden in Africa include increasing exposure to known cancer risk factors, such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diets, alcohol use and environmental pollution.

He attributed the additional contributing factors in the rise of the disease burden in the region to the epidemiologic and demographic changes that are currently taking place.

“In short, the cancer burden is increasing as Africans are now living longer, in large part because of improvements in the control of the infectious causes of mortality and morbidity.

“Among the factors responsible for the high cancer burden in Africa are the absence of widely available information on the early signs and symptoms of cancer, late diagnosis, misdiagnosis, absence/weak referral systems, difficult access to care and treatment, catastrophic costs of treatment and medicines, and weak health care systems.

“Only 26 per cent of low-income countries around the world reported having public sector pathology services, and only 30 per cent  of these countries had cancer treatment services.

“Cancer diagnosis should not represent a death sentence in Africa, nor should it lead to catastrophic expenditure following out-of-pocket payments for diagnostic, treatment and palliative care,” said Peters.

He therefore urged all stakeholders and specifically African governments to create an environment in which cancer risk factors, for example alcohol and tobacco use, are reduced, and citizens maintain good levels of physical activity, healthy bodyweight, and good nutrition. .

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, there are 11 cancer registries, located in various tertiary hospitals in the country.

While the federal government tries to fulfill its commitments to upgrading seven cancer centres in the country, critical observers in the health sector have stressed the need to prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatments.

The president, Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said that more Nigerians were dying of cancer due to late presentation, difficulties in accessing cancer drugs and inadequate cancer clinics.

The minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, reiterated the government’s commitment to investing in cancer treatment centres, equipped with innovative machines to ensure more people were treated in the country.

Adewole said that the recent commissioning of a new radiotherapy machine at National Hospital, Abuja, would provide easy access to radiation treatment for Nigerians, adding that the facility at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) would be offering full and un-interrupted service soon.

He therefore called on interested stakeholders in the national and international arena to partner with the Federal Ministry of Health so that more laudable achievements could be recorded in the management of cancer cases in the country.

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