Monday, 29 September 2008

The Fight Against Cancer

Cancer remains a major global health problem in developing countries like Nigeria. The need to urgently address the burden in our nation cannot be understated

By Juliana Uzoka

The menace of cancer scourge on the teeming populace is increasing astronomically. Recently, some prominent Nigerians have fallen victim to this malignant ailment in quick succession. Ace Broadcaster, Yinka Craig and Ozzidi King Sonny Okusons both died of cancer.

However, epidemiological evidence shows that cancer neither spares the rich nor the poor. It respects no age group; even neonates have their own share of cancer. Cancer has its peculiarity. Cancer of the prostrate and liver cancer is mostly suffered by men, cervical and breast cancer is suffered by women while the lymphomas are in children coupled with the HIV related malignancy in the society.

Acting minister of health, Dr Mohammed Hassan Lawal stated that; “Cancer is a growing global health concern and Nigeria is not left out because it is a major contributor of morbidity and mortality in our Nation.” According to him, “the dearth of skilled health professionals such as medical physicists, docimetrists, oncology nurses, has posed a major challenge to this effort, because even in tertiary hospitals where much is invested, the lack of appropriate skilled personnel has made it difficult to provide effective services.”

The minister commended the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar'adua for her commitment to the project and for leading a delegation of health officials from Nigeria to M.D Anderson Cancer Center in the USA reputed to be one of the best in the world. Hajia Yar'Adua set in motion plans to give every Nigerian Cancer patient the opportunity of expert care through the establishment of well equipped National Cancer Center.

Newsworld learnt that the World Health Organization, WHO, has expressed anxiety about the looming global epidemic by estimating an annual incidence of 500,000 new cases by 2010. The WHO statistics stated that if the world is not careful, one in every four person above 50 years will develop cancer.

The Federal Government in its renewed effort to reduce significantly the cancer scourge has through the Federal Ministry of Health launched an awareness campaign to sensitize the public on the need to report early detection and treatment as well as prevention mechanism and effective immunization of adolescents.
A staff of the Federal Ministry of Health said that the high rate of casualty from cancer is because people report late. And then, environmental factors, lack of awareness as well as stigmatization. While health index attributes the affliction to chronic exposure to carcinogenic bacteria, and self made pandemics of tobacco smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and foods containing a lot of saturated fats.

On the five years National Cancer Control Plan between 2008 and 2013 it will be a collaborative effort between the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Consultative Committee for cancer control.

However, Dr Hassan Lawal enjoins other stakeholders to partner with the Ministry of Health in the fight against cancer. He also warns that duplication of stakeholders' effort is retrogressive pointing out that, “there are more than enough areas of intervention in cancer management to enable us synergize our activities.”
The National Cancer Center is to be established in the six geo-political zones. The first will be sited in the Federal Capital Territory.

According to WHO, the establishment of a National Cancer Control Programme is necessary to coordinate activities in five major areas which include public education, cancer prevention, early diagnosis and referral, effective therapy and palliative care.

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