Cancer: Join The Fight

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Yesterday February 4 was World Cancer Day; a day set aside by the United Nations (UN)/World Health Organisation (WHO) every year to raise awareness about cancer and encourage its research, prevention, detection and treatment.

Cancer encompasses a wide range of complex diseases affecting various organs in the body. It is the leading cause of the death worldwide, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

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Despite this ailment being a scourge, its awareness, prevention and treatment is surprisingly still poor in Nigeria. It is really sad the way we take health issues in this country.

During the last general elections, neither All Progessive Congress (APC) nor People’s Democratic Party (PDP) mentioned health in their mainfesto. All focus was on economy, infrastructure and anti-corruption war.

Nigeria economy greatly depends on crude oil production in the oil-rich areas and the price of crude oil in the international market. However, there is still little or no awareness about the possible health hazards like cancer that will develop over time in those areas as a result of the exploration and exploitation of crude oil.

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Cancer is unfortunately ubiquitous; we are all affected by it whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) are present in the air, food and water we are exposed to. Drugs, hormones, viruses, petrochemicals, bacteria, metals, radiation, tobacco, obesity and increased alcohol intake all increase cancer risk.

The U.S. Department of Health Services estimated that about two-third of all cancer cases worldwide is linked to our environment and our life style choices. WHO also estimated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur in Nigeria annually.

This highlights the dire need for us, as a people, to prepare for the Tsunami that is about to break in cancer by raising awareness and promoting research for prevention and treatment of all cancer types. This will go a long way in reducing cancer incidence and cancer-related deaths in Nigeria.

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Luckily, cancer incidence is still lower in Nigeria than developed nations like the United Kingdom (UK) so there is need to nip it in the bud. James M. Allan, a Professor of Cancer Genetics at Newcastle University, suggested that the difference in life expectancy at birth in both countries may be the reason behind this.

The current life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is 52.62 years whilst life expectancy at birth in the UK is 80.54 years (source: CIA World Fact Book). And the median age of most cancers at diagnosis is often between 60 and 68 years.

The most prevalent cancers in Nigeria are breast, cervical and prostrate cancers. Cancer treatments are expensive but these are curable if detected early. The outlook for patients with these cancers is much better than two to three decades ago, with better cure rates and longer term disease freesurvival.

However, cancer treatment centres are very few in the country. And most of them lack modern equipment for diagnosing and treating the condition. It was reported last year that only two radiotherapy machines are functional in the country.

The Federal Government, in conjunction with the state and local governments, need to float and equip more mobile centres throughout the country to fight this scourge. And also create awareness about the causative factors, preventative measures, likely treatment options and facilities where such treatments are available. I implore them to also make provisions in the annual budget for extensive researches into all cancer types affecting Nigerians.

Cancer is no respecter of age, sex, ethnicity, religion, class, wealth, beauty, talent, intelligence, fame or power. But together we can all do something about cancer. Join the fight against cancer.

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2 Replies to “Cancer: Join The Fight”

  1. Rinz,

    Appropriate article given that it was world cancer day on February 4 2016. I haven’t actually researched to confirm it was world cancer day but as you’re in the sciences field, I take your word for it. Shocking that I didn’t hear, see etc. any broadcasts on any media leading up to & including February 4th spreading awareness on cancer as this is the norm in western countries but then again, I don’t use mainstream media but prefer internet-based media. However, I didn’t come across a single advert on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. talking about cancer and I find this disturbing but I digress. As an ex-smoker, the issue of cancer is one which I’m very aware of but I find even here in the UK, where there is much awareness, treatment facilities etc., there is HUGE nonchalance towards cancer as the majority of the population are smokers (I can’t remember a day, since I’ve lived in the UK (23 years) where I haven’t seen at least 1 smoker.) There is a prevalence of smokers in western countries, I see smokers everyday, but even with all the awareness raised over here & with a lot of people having experienced death in their family or knowing of someone who passed away from the disease, smoking is still very much the norm among all generations. Strange isn’t it? Personally, a cousin of mine (may she rest in peace, RIP) passed away from breast cancer last year may 2015 and an uncle of mine has had to travel to India to receive treatment from prostrate cancer recently, so, this disease is very much present in Nigeria. In my cousin’s case, she preferred to go to her church & delayed medical treatment for more than a year to receive ‘prayers’ otherwise treatment (which was extensive in her case) might have been more effective & given her a better-quality of life towards the latter stages of her life . I think, that the issue of cancer in developing countries (Nigeria) could tend towards better awareness, education & prevention because the facilities for treatment, sadly, are not always provided by government, who, are busy directing funds towards their own pockets. The populations, both sufferers & health practitioners (especially in rural areas) should be taught about all aspects of the disease (causes, symptoms, prevention techniques etc) & clinics spread widely throughout regions to detect the illness in it’s early stages & enable effective treatment to occur & allow sufferers to manage their health better & enjoy a better quality of life with their illness. How this will be achieved, I’m not sure but wealthy individuals in western countries donate funds to cancer charities & this could be a start for developing countries but education on the illness is widely available & this I think is urgently required as a starting measure. I have volunteered in a cancer charity shop around 5 years ago, where I worked for 4 months but even while there, I & my colleagues weren’t given much education (which I thought was important especially given that it was in the UK) but we’re taught more about acquiring funds for the charity which again, we weren’t told how the funds were being used to affect cancer sufferers. To conclude, I think better education on the illness is necessary worldwide, especially on prevention techniques as treatment is often non-existent particularly in developing countries and could lead to a better place where patients are ‘aware’ of the appropriate measures to take rather than go to dubious persons who broadcast that ‘prayers’ are the ‘only’ effective treatment for cancer & other serious illnesses as is the norm, unfortunately, in Nigeria and possibly other developing countries leading to prevention of damaging deterioration in the sufferers health & delays in effective treatment.

    Thank You
    Nnamdi Onyema.

    Like

    1. I am surprised to hear that you didn’t see any of the cancer awareness posts on the Internet yesterday. The world cancer day hashtag trended yesterday on twitter. I understand that smoking is a norm in the UK; I know a lecturer that teaches against tobacco and its link to cancer but lights up a stick the moment he has a break.
      I am sorry to hear about your loss. Many people in Nigeria believe most of their problems are spiritual and prefer to go down that route to find a cure for their illnesses. By the time they go to hospitals, it’d be late for the doctors to help them.
      I agree with you that creating awareness via rallies, conferences, media etc is the best way to get the people to know about this problem. And hopefully, this will encourage more people to respond to SOS calls when asked to give to cancer charities.
      In the end, this scourge requires collective efforts of individuals and the Govt to reduce it to the bearest minimum.

      Like

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