How to tackle breast cancer
By Vivian Chima
The regular saying that “corruption in Nigeria is like Cancer” in itself aptly captures what Cancer is and its rather disastrous ability to eat deep into the human system, sadly though many lives have been lost as a result of this sad reality.
For purposes of clarity, Cancer has been defined by the Nigerian Cancer Society as a disease in which abnormal cells grow and reproduce uncontrollably and invade nearby tissues by spreading to other parts of the body.
The three most common cancers in Nigeria are breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer.
Other common cancers in the country are liver and colorectal cancer; while common cancers in children in are retinoblastoma and leukaemia.
Investigations have revealed that late presentation for medical care by cancer patients was affecting their survival and hampering efforts towards controlling the disease in the country.
H.E Toyin Saraki, the Founder-President of WBFA, Nigeria’s foremost women, children and adolescent health-focused philanthropy, released a statement noting:
“Globally, breast cancer impacts 2.1 million women each year and also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer.”
“Breast cancer is increasing, particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages. Early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.”
The Executive Director, Project Pink Blue, Runcie C.W. Chidebe and a popular advocate of cancer care, said: “Breast cancer kills over 31 Nigerian women every day, cervical cancer is 99% preventable but over 29 women die of cervical cancer every day.
The country is indeed losing human resources, quite sad.
The overly talked about issue of corruption in Nigeria has unarguably eaten deep into the country’s ability to combat Cancer leaving a very big hole evident in the number of hospitals technically equipped across the nation for Cancer patients.
It is rather disheartening to know that there are only eight teaching hospitals in Nigeria that have radiotherapy machines for tackling cancer which has become a menace across the 36 states of the federation.
The hospitals are: Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba; University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin; Usmanu Danfodiyo Teaching Hospital, Sokoto; and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe; University College Hospital, Ibadan; National Hospital Abuja, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria; and University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.
Even then, the machines in some of the hospitals are not functioning, thereby further slimming the chances of survival of patients across the country.
Available figures show that no fewer than 281,308 citizens have lost their lives to the disease in the last four years.
The figure did not include thousands of unreported cases as a result of cultural and other factors.
Many people died of the disease because they could not afford treatment.
So far, findings show that 464,000 cases have also been recorded from 2016 to date. Hundreds of thousands of people in the 774 local government areas of the country suffer the pains in silence as only a few have access to the treatment facilities because of distance and their poor financial standing.
Data obtained from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in its 2019 report said in 2018 alone, 70,327 deaths were recorded from cancer in the country.
According to the Nigerian Cancer Society, more than 80,000 deaths from cancer are recorded annually in Nigeria. President of the society Prof Sani Abubakar Malami said 250,000 new cancer cases are recorded in the country each year.
Medical experts observe that though cancer is treatable at the early stages, many seek medical attention very late. Investigations revealed that out of the eight teaching hospitals that have facilities, only two are working well as others have been breaking down from time to time or have packed up completely.
Dr Bello Abubakar Mohammed, a Clinical and Radiation Oncologist at the National Hospital, in an interview said with four radiation machines for the treatment of cancer, Nigeria is still short of the 180 machines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) adding that out of 3,000 radiation oncologists needed in Nigeria, only 70 are available; and only 20 work in centres that have facilities.
Another saddening reality in the fight against Cancer in Nigeria is the fact that the treatment of the disease is not being covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and as such, patients have to pay out-of-pocket, making them suffer untold hardships.
There is indeed an urgent need to address the root problem in tackling Cancer in Nigeria. Government needs to do more in the area of screening and prevention as well public enlightenment and awareness of the disease.
The Federal Government should begin as a matter of urgency and that of sincerity to match words with action and save Nigerians from cancer.
Remember, early detection is the first step to combating this enemy, go for screening today.
Vivian Chima wrote in from Umuahia.