Doctors have raised the alarm that more Nigerians are dying of cancer even as the majority of victims are women. According to them, more than two million Nigerians are at present down with the terminal disease. The revelation came as they identified “poor and unhealthy” lifestyle as responsible for the increasing cancer statistics in the country. Oncologists (cancer care specialists) made this known while speaking with our correspondent in Lagos. They spoke as the World Cancer Day holds on Wednesday (today).
According to the Head of the Oncology and Radiotherapy Unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Prof. Remi Ajekigbe, the country records no fewer than 100,000 new cases of cancer yearly. For instance, Ajekigbe noted that LUTH records at least 3,000 fresh cancer cases annually. He added, “Despite the breakdown of the facility that lasted up to four months last year as well as the strikes, we still had no fewer than 3,000 cancer patients. “Cancer rates are soaring globally and Nigeria is no exemption. At present, there are about two million cancer cases recorded in Nigeria. Besides, we record about 100,000 new patients every year.”
The Chief Medical Director, Eko Hospital, Lagos, Mr. Olusegun Odukoya, agrees with Ajekigbe. The oncology department of the private hospital, Odukoya said, records no fewer than 1,000 new cases each year. The physician, who also raised the alarm that 50 per cent of the cancer cases and deaths occurred in women, urged the Federal Government to roll out a cancer-screening programme targeted at early detection of the disease.
He added, “More cases of cancer are being diagnosed because people are now aware of the disease. In fact, Eko Hospital is the only private hospital with radiotherapy machine for treating cancer. Yet, we see 1,000 new cancer patients each year. “The unfortunate thing is that the two forms of cancer that is killing Nigerians, the most occur in women, that is cancer of the breast and cervix. It is now important that the government must begin initiatives that would ensure that cancer is detected in women early to avoid these deaths.” Ajekigbe, defining cancer as an abnormal and uncontrolled growth that persists in the body, noted that women had a higher risk of being down with the disease when compared to men.
Ajekigbe said, “More than 50 per cent of cancer occurs in women. Breast and cervical cancer are the commonest and they occur in women. That is why every woman should examine her breast regularly and breast-feed. Forget about the shape of your breast, breast feeding will protect both you and your baby from developing cancer of the breast.” Lamenting that cancer rates were soaring globally, the oncologist noted that the situation in Nigeria was more pathetic. He identified the poor state of cancer care and facilities, dearth of funding, late diagnosis and detection as some of the reasons for high death statistics in the country.