Oncologist Decries Growing Incidences of Cancer Disease in Nigeria

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A Consultant Ocular Oncologist, Dr Abia Nzelu, has decried the growing incidences of cancer disease and the poor attention being given to it in Nigeria.

Nzelu, also Executive Secretary, Mass Medical Mission (MMM) in charge of cancers care, made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

The expert also said that dearth of cancers management centres was responsible for the increased rate of people going abroad for medical attention, and its prevalence in Nigeria.

According to her, the dearth of cancers management centres has negative implications on the awareness against the disease prevention and cure.

She said that the disease had affected the Nigerian population, with breast cancers being the highest prevalence.

The consultant oncologist said there was lack of a functional Comprehensive Cancer Centres (CCC) in the country, where cancer cases could be fully treated.

Nzelu, quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) data, said there would be a 60 per cent increase in cancer cases over the next two decades globally.

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She said the greatest increase (an estimated 81 per cent) in new cases, would occur in developing countries like Nigeria.

”This disproportionate increase is large because the health services of the developing countries are not equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.

“The optimal infrastructure needed for cancer treatment in Nigeria is CCC.

“A CCC is a world-class, stand-alone tertiary health institution, with all its departments focussed on cancer care.

“Whilst India has over 200 CCC, Nigeria has none. Therefore, Nigerians, who can afford it, resort to treatment abroad.

“This situation results in a colossal drain of Nigeria’s foreign reserve with an estimated one billion dollars being spent on foreign treatment annually.

“Ironically, with this amount, we can establish 20 CCC every year in Nigeria, yet we don’t have one.

”The recent COVID-19 related global lockdown has shown that medical tourism may not always be available, even, if one can afford it,” the expert said.

Nzelu, therefore, advised governments, organisations, philanthropists and well-meaning Nigerians to prioritise the management of cancer disease in the country.

She said that this could be achieved through a political will to establish at least, one functional CCC and more cancer management centres where people could go into research about the disease.

“We can take inspiration from other countries that have changed the cancer situation for the good of generations yet unborn.

“Largely, due to philanthropic efforts, the U.S now has over 1,500 Comprehensive Cancer Centres (CCC).

“The first CCC in the U.S is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC), New York. It was founded in 1884 by philanthropists.

“Before MSKCC, cancer was a death sentence in the U.S. Doctors were afraid of informing patients of their cancer diagnosis and patients were afraid of disclosing their diagnosis to their families.

“Similarly, the first children cancer centre in the U.S (St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee, U.S), was philanthropy driven.

“This hospital costs over 1.4 billion dollars to run annually, but no patient is charged anything because the entire cost is covered by donations.

“If one in seven Nigerians donates only N1,000 each to the GivingTide International, the first CCC in Nigeria will be fully ready within a year.

”Therefore, there is no reason for the continued holocaust of avoidable and catastrophic deaths from cancers,” she said.

Also, Dr Omogbohun Patrick, an Oncologist, said people that care for cancer patients and medical doctors that specialised in oncology lacked the necessary equipment to work with.

Patrick, also the Medical Director, MercyWay Medical Centre, Ejigbo in Lagos, said that lack of equipment limited their services.

“Nigeria has less than 10 radiotherapy machines to cater for its teeming population against the WHO recommendation of at least one radiotherapy machine for every one million people.

“The holocaust of the untimely death of cancer victims in Nigeria is due to late detection and inadequate treatment,” he said.

The oncologist said that the poor treatment of cancer patients was as a result of lack of infrastructure and organised system of preventive healthcare.

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