Tackling Cancer, The Silent Killer | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Our View

Tackling Cancer, The Silent Killer

Cancer
Posted: Jun 29, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

You may be living with Cancer  and not even know it. This frightening revelation which was made recently by Professor Abayomi Durosinmi-Etti, a consultant Radiotherapist and Oncologist, at the inaugural lecture of the University of Lagos, once more highlights the need for strategies and intervention for preventing cancer by clinical researchers. Indeed with the rising incidents of cancer in Nigeria as revealed by Prof Durosinmi-Etti, there is no better time than now for government and Nigerians to embark on proactive measures against the scourge.

Statistics indicate that cancer has overtaken other Non-communicable Diseases in the country and this is definitely alarming. Of about100, 000 fresh cases reportedly detected annually in Nigeria, 71,000 people die each year from cancer related causes. Besides, globally, 10 million cases are said to be diagnosed annually, with six million likely to die. Half of the expected deaths occur in developing countries like Nigeria due to a dearth of cancer management facilities. Also very frightening is the revelation that cancer of the breast and the cervix make up 50% of cancer found among women and that prostate cancer is on the rise amongst men. This disclosure is certainly a wake-up call to Nigerians, including the Federal and States Governments, since cancer is not limited to any age or group.

Nigeria is presently not doing enough in terms of assisting cancer patients to access teletherapy machines for cancer treatment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has stipulated that for optimum services, the country needs 200 of these machines, yet there are presently only 9 of them in existence. Unfortunately out of these, only two are reportedly functional.

No doubt therapies which target abnormalities have made significant impact in the survival of cancer patients, but they have not been curative. There is definitely a need for more enduring panacea in cancer care. It has been scientifically proven that adopting a western diet which is meat-heavy and fatty predisposes, especially Africans, to cancer of the colon as opposed to eating traditional African meals which are richer in fibre.

Experiments carried out by various groups have proven that some indulgent lifestyles like excessive daily intake of alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise, having unsafe sex and obesity are risk factors. Over exposure to sunlight, especially of very fair skinned people, whose skins are actually devoid of the pigmentation that acts as a shield from the sun, could also lead to cancer of the skin. Improper food storage can encourage the growth of fungi and bacteria that could release carcinogenic substances into food. Other factors that come into consideration are family history of having the disease, and carcinogenic pollutants in the environment.

Treating cancer is very expensive and the prognosis for a permanent cure is dependent on how early the cancer is detected. This current administration could assist cancer patients to avail themselves of more affordable treatment by including its treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and removing bureaucratic bottle necks that hinder private investment. Cancer treatment drugs are also very expensive and should be accorded a tax free status to lower the cost of treatment.

We urge government to endeavour to have at least a cancer treatment centre in each of the geopolitical zones of the country and appeal for private sector participation in building centres as a means of augmenting government efforts and saving lives.