At the fourth Scientific Conference of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences held recently at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos with the theme, “Innovation in Cancer Research and Diagnosis,” medical experts at the event reiterated the need for more cancer centres in the country to address the increasing cases of the disease. This Newspaper agrees with this submission considering that cancer seems to have become worse than Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) globally in general and Nigeria in particular.
Research has shown that about 14 million people are diagnosed of cancer round the world out of which about 8 million die from it annually. Indeed a greater percentage of this figure is believed to be in developing countries like Nigeria. The commonest types of cancers in Nigeria, according to medical experts are breast, cervix, prostate, rectum and skin cancers. Only recently, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), revealed that about 17,000 Nigerians die of cancer annually. It is even more worrisome that the disease, which has to do with out-of-control cell growth, can affect and ravage nearly any part of the human body.
The truth is that the soaring figures of cancer indices in Nigeria can be reduced drastically if adequate measures are put in place to address it. It is a known fact that if cancer cases, especially breast cancer, are being detected early, they can be treatable. As a matter of fact, statistics show that one-third of the cancer deaths can be prevented once detected early, especially breast cancer. There is no denying the fact that due to the glimmer of hope which early detection of cancer cases present, there is need for government and corporate organisatons to get involved in raising awareness of cancer through enlightenment and sensitisation of the public.
Certainly, the handling of the devastating incidence of cancer in Nigeria requires greater commitment from government considering that there are concerns that Nigeria is lagging behind many African countries, such as Ghana, Egypt and Tunisia in cancer control, treatment and research.
Unfortunately, while the issues, which pose a problem in the treatment of cancer in Nigeria are multifaceted, the major drawback in the country’s quest to curtail the disease includes lack of adequate awareness, availability of treatment only in selected hospitals and centres, and absence of the availability of entire range of treatment facilities. It is expedient for the federal government to show responsiveness in this regard by ensuring that there are more functional National Cancer Registry to increase awareness and advocacy. There is also need for improved infrastructure by setting up more cancer and oncology centres to cater adequately for the increasing level of cancer cases. More so, because high cost of treatment is one of the reasons why most cancer patients die, even when the disease is detected early, it is important that government considers subsidising cancer treatment and care. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and the corporate organisations must all join hands and do more in this regard to deal with the scourge of cancer in the country.