Home Editorial Tackling the cancer scourge

Tackling the cancer scourge

According to the World Health Organization, WHO, cancer has become the number one killer disease of mankind.
An estimated 80,000 out of 100,000 Nigerians diagnosed of the scourge die annually. That is a high mortality rate. 
An equal opportunity killer, the disease does not respect age, race, gender and socio-economic class. Many prominent Nigerians like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, wife of Edo State Governor, Mrs. Clara Oshiomhole, the Aare Musulimi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao, the 13th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, former Director-General of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili and recently former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Wifred Agbonavbare, have succumbed to cancer.
Notable survivors have included the Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka whose earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer led to early treatment. Former South Africa President Dr. Nelson Mandela who also was diagnosed of prostate cancer at the age of 83 survived the disease and lived for another 12 years before he died. Mandela’s experience is particularly inspiring to Nigeria and the rest of Africa since he was diagnosed, successfully treated and cured in his fatherland South Africa.
Analysts have attributed the current high incidence of this silent killer in the country on late diagnosis and detection   resulting from the dearth of cancer screening centers, ignorance, poor state of health facilities, poor funding of cancer care and high cost of treatment.
There is also the paucity of awareness campaigns and education as to early detection and treatment which improve the chances of survival.
Records show that the incidence of cancer across the world doubled between 1975 and year 2000 and will double again by 2020 and, possibly, triple by 2030 when one out of every two persons will be diagnosed of the disease same year.
Unfortunately however, the WHO puts 70 percent of cancer deaths as taking place in developing countries like Nigeria. We note with great concern that current statistics on the disease also indicates that 10 Nigerians die from one form of the disease every hour while cancer kills four out of every five citizens diagnosed of the ailment which makes the country as having one of the worst mortality ratio globally.
In specific terms, prostate cancer according to WHO kills 26 Nigerian men daily while 24 women die of cervical cancer daily in spite of the fact that a vaccine has been developed to prevent it.
Breast cancer, also, kills about 40 women per day bringing the total number of Nigerians lost to cancer to 90 daily with the attendant socio-economic losses.
Cancer is a large group of related diseases, all involving unregulated cells growth which form malignant tumours that invade other parts of the body and destroy them. Most common types of cancer such as breast cancer, oral cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal and prostate cancer     have high cure rates when detected early and treated
The World Health Organization has posited that more than 30 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including tobacco use; being overweight; lack of physical activity; unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake; alcohol use; urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels among others.
What this means and we agree is that contrary to current widely-held belief, cancer is not a death sentence and should not be if diagnosed early and treated.
But sadly, unlike what obtains in developed countries like the United States of America and even developing nations such as Egypt, Kenya and South Africa which are providing comprehensive cancer care already, Nigeria does not have a single comprehensive cancer centre which clearly explains the otherwise high rate of mortality from the disease.
Regrettably also, due to poor or non-existing infrastructure to tame cancer, Nigerians spend an estimated $200 million annually on treatment of the disease overseas, an amount that could cover the costs of building three Comprehensive Cancer Centres or to acquire 300 Mobile Cancer Centres. One comprehensive cancer centre costs about $63 million to set up while $600,000 could provide a mobile cancer centre.
For now, most Nigerians do not have access to basic cancer screening much less adequate cancer treatment which account for the high number of deaths from the disease.
In this regard, the current initiative of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, CECP which has launched a big war against cancer which is partnering with the National Cancer Prevention Programme, NCPP, to acquire and deploy 37 Mobile Cancer Centres in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is highly commendable.
According to CECP Executive Secretary, Dr. Abia Nzelu, the cancer centres, when provided would enable Nigerians including those living in rural areas to easily access screening centres that would ensure early detection as well as treatment of the silent killer.
This   new partnership must be sustained, strengthened and should go a step further to mobilizing both private and public funds to building at least one Comprehensive Cancer Centre in each of the six geo-political zones in the country as part of the architecture to combat the scourge.
Nigerians are also encouraged to go for cancer screening periodically while governments at all levels are encouraged  to subsidize the cost of treatment   as well as the drugs   to be affordable by most patients.
It is gladdening  that modern science has now made cervical cancer almost 100 percent preventable and as a matter of fact fast disappearing in civilized world given the potency of new drugs discovered when well administered.
This, has made the theme of 2015 World Cancer Day which is ‘Not Beyond Us’ most appropriate and we challenge all stakeholders in the health sector, the public and private sectors to henceforth adopt more proactive measures against cancer.
We further urge the general public to present themselves regularly for cancer screening whenever facilities for such detection exist for the war against the scourge to be fought and won.

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