The death of veteran Nigerian singer and actor Olarenwaju Fasasi, popularly known as, Sound Sultan, after losing the battle with cancer has once again brought to the fore the threat posed by cancer to Nigerians.
The 44 year-old passed away on Sunday, July 11, 2021, according to a statement by his family. The statement revealed that Sound Sultan died after “a hard fought battle with Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma,” a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a group of related malignancies (cancers) that affect the lymphatic system (lymphomas), according to NORD’s rarediseases.org. The musician was in the United States where presumably he had access to the best medical facilities available in the world, unfortunately he could not beat the disease. Most of his compatriots in Nigeria who suffer from cancer are not that privileged. That is why his death, as sad as it is, is an opportunity to remind Nigerians to protect themselves from cancer because ‘prevention is better than cure’. This is especially so in a country like ours where due to lack of adequate medical facilities, cancer has become almost like a death sentence.
The global cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. One in 5 men and one in 6 women worldwide develop cancer during their lifetime, and one in 8 men and one in 11 women die from the disease.
Worldwide, the total number of people who are alive within 5 years of a cancer diagnosis, called the 5 – year prevalence, is estimated to be 43.8 million. The increasing cancer burden is due to several factors, including population growth and ageing as well as the changing prevalence of certain causes of cancer linked to social and economic development. This is particularly true in rapidly growing economies, where a shift is observed from cancers related to poverty and infections to cancers associated with lifestyles more typical of industrialised countries.
It is estimated that Sub – Saharan Africa’ s cancer burden is significant and growing. Based on Globocan estimate of 2012, there were an estimated 626, 400 new cases of cancer and 447, 700 deaths from cancer in Sub – Saharan Africa. Based on population aging alone, cancer incidence in Sub – Saharan Africa is projected to increase by 85 percent by 2027.
Cancer in Africa is characterised by late presentation, low access to treatment, and poor treatment outcomes. Delays in access to cancer treatment result in 80 – 90 per cent of cases that are in an advanced stage at the time of arrival to treatment. Cancer is responsible for 72, 000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102, 000 new cases of cancer annually.
According to experts breast and cervical cancers are the two most common types of cancer responsible for approximately 50.3 per cent of all cancer cases in Nigeria. Particularly challenging, is the mortality incidence ratio of cancer for Nigeria when compared to other nations. For example, while in America, 19 per cent of all breast cancer cases result in death, the percentage is 51 per cent in Nigeria, triple the rate seen in the US. In addition to the high mortality incidence ratio of cancer, the availability and quality of cancer data presented for Nigeria is poor.
Being a cancer patient in Nigeria comes with a lot of burdens. Even when detected early, the facilities to tackle cancer are not available. This makes the journey a tortuous one for patients. With an estimated population of 200 million people, Nigeria boasts of about eight cancer centres, and some of them do not have functional radiotherapy machine.
Given the poor health care facilities in the country to manage and treat cancer, the next question that should come to mind is how can Nigerians protect themselves from cancer, as according to the popular adage, ‘Prevention is better than cure?’ Here are some of the steps Nigerians can take to protect themselves from cancer.
The steps include; Don ‘t buy road side fruits in big cities. They are forcefully ripened with harmful chemicals such as carbide, which is used by welders for welding. Buy from rural areas; Don ‘t buy chemicals concocted as skin toners and whiteners, they contain carcinogens; Don’t drink ‘agbo,’ their major ingredient is industrial chemicals such as ethanol; Avoid palm oil from urban markets, that red you see in the oil is textile dye, it is not meant for human consumption; Pure water is mostly not pure. Avoid it if you can; Don ‘t buy medicines from street or bus hawkers, that could be poisonous; Parboil and wash all grains twice while cooking, so you can wash off pesticides; Sellers use a lot of chemicals as pesticides so as to avoid weevils and other insects; Don ‘t buy roadside honey from street hawkers. More than likely, you are buying bleached used engine oil mixed with sugar and topped with dead bees; Avoid smoke, whether of cigarettes, wood kitchen or shisha; You may not like this one, but alcohol is a carcinogen. Limit its consumption!
The ever-rising reports of cancer are mainly as a result of above. Remember this, apart from genetic factors; cancer is usually triggered by exposure to dangerous and hazardous chemicals. By doing your best to avoid carcinogens, that is cancer triggering chemicals, you will remain fairly f ree from cancer. As church people say, ‘flee from the devil, the devil will flee from you.’ In likewise, flee from cancer causes, and cancer will flee from you. Having said what Nigerians can do to protect them from cancer, let me also advise our government on steps that should be taken to handle the growing cases of cancer in our country. There is need to increase cancer information dissemination, education and cancer outreach services nationwide. Other measures include; Increased opportunities for cancer training for relevant healthcare providers and advocates; Development of training programmes for multidisciplinary cancer management; Improving the documentation of the location and quality of existing cancer facilities, manpower and services through the establishment of national and regional registration centres; Improving the cancer surveillance system to delineate public health priorities as well as plan and monitor comprehensive strategies for cancer control; Facilitate the process of quality palliative care services including pain control through advocacy to lift the ban on importation of narcotic analgesics; The development of policy and regulation priorities for cancer care and services within the context of non – communicable diseases(NCD); Improvement in access to clinical services for cancer prevention, early detection, diagnoses and treatment; Improving cancer research capacity in the country. Government should encourage National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID) to carry out research on cancer drugs and manufacturing to reduce the burden on patients caused by high cost of imported drugs. This means that there should be more funding for research on cancer drugs in Nigeria. There is also the need for the integration of primary prevention into primary health care (PHC) delivery.
HPV vaccine that is yet to be introduced into the PHC routine vaccine should be introduced without further delay. The development of a comprehensive database of private and public funding agencies of cancer scientists in Nigeria should also be compiled and readily available for policy makers. We also advocate the development of opportunities for the dissemination of cancer research findings to other researchers, academia, policy makers and the general public in Nigeria. Government should encourage the creation of opportunities for national and international cancer research collaborations among institutions and scientists. Everything possible should be done by Nigerian government at all levels to protect Nigerians from the scourge of cancer.
A World Free Of Cancer(Opens in a new browser tab)