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When silence on cancer management becomes noisy

A breast cancer patient

Experts say 42m Nigerians will have cancer in 2020…IT only takes a prominent Nigerian to die from cancer for many to feel the effect of this killer disease. For instance, when Chief Gani Fewehimi, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, Sunny Okosun, among others died, the sound of the ailment went beyond the hospital beds. Inspite of these deaths, not much has been done by way of enlightenment about cancer awareness and management in Nigeria. This is the dilemma faced by cancer patients in the country and why experts are unanimous in their disappointment about poor cancer management. CHARLES KUMOLU and EMMANUEL ELEBEKE report.

Do you know that cancer kills more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and Tuberculosis put together? This revelation is a product of the global trend in cancer epidemics at the just concluded International Conference on Modern Cancer Management entitled “Infections and Cancer”

More worrisome is the revelation by experts at the confab that by 2020, the number of cancer patients in Nigeria will increase from 24million to 42 million.

With youths accounting for the majority of Nigeria’s population, high illiteracy rate and poor awareness on the subject, the figure is not likely to decline in nine years as estimated, VanguardFeatures,VF gathered.

These among other cancer management tips were some of the issues that dominated discussions at the forum.

The event was organised by the Society of Oncology and Cancer Research of Nigeria,SOCRON, cancer Registration and Epidemiology in association with the International Prevention Research Institute,IPRI, raised issues on some aspects of cancer management,such as cancer registration and epidemiology, grants writing, multi-disciplinary management of AIDS, associated Cancers, palliative care and pain management nursing Oncology among others.

The forum which attracted the presence of international experts in cancer prevention, epidemiology, clinical trials, was an avenue to arrest the growing spread of the ailment in Nigeria.

From the onset, it was obvious that participants would be treated to scaring facts about the disease in the country.

For instance, Associate Director of Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA, Prof. Willam Blatter, who raised the curtain, disclosed that that the state of cancer care in Nigeria mimics the situation for HIV&AIDS treatment in the early years of HIV in the country.

Perhaps, this may sound scary to many, whose memory of the early years of HIV in Nigeria, is still fresh.

“This event is meant to improve ability of cancer staff from Nigeria that will produce data on cancer incidence with sufficient quality, in order to sustain cancer control programmes within the country. It is meant to serve as a platform to begin etiological research and epidemiological studies and to be able to identify geographical patterns of cancer incidence in the country. with over three million people living with HIV&AIDS, AIDS associated malignancies are set to become the commonest cancer in Nigeria, oncology services and research in Nigeria had remained fragmentary and poorly developed, the state of cancer care in Nigeria mimics the situation for HIV&AIDS treatment in the early years of HIV in the country,” Blatter stated.

In addition he said, “Cancer is a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth, invasion that intrudes upon and destroys adjacent tissues, and sometimes metastasis, or spreading to other locations in the body via lymph or blood. These three malignant properties of cancers differentiate them from benign tumours, which do not invade or metastasize. With the presentations and combination of personal insights by the various cancer authorities, historical vignettes and recent advances in the study of cancer, increase in opportunities for African scientists and researchers to apply for grants from governments and foundations is possible.”

But with the conference, he expressed optimism that development of multi disciplinary cancer treatment would be fostered among the prevention and research teams trained at the three days workshop, through local and international capacity development, networking and research.

Environmental factors are spreading cancer

speakers at the forum were unanimous on the various causes of cancer, as they largely pointed to environmental and hereditary factors.

Some of the common environmental factors leading to cancer as indicated include: tobacco, bad dieting, especially calories, infections, radiation, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants. These environmental factors, according to them cause or enhance abnormalities in the genetic material of cells.

It was gathered that other cancers threatening lives today include: Breast, prostrate, skin, ovarian, deep blood clot and lungs cancer, among others, while breast and cervical cancers according to the experts are said to be the most common type claiming millions of lives globally, with largest casualties found in Africa.

“In a space of 30 years, counting from 1990, Nigeria is going to move from 24 to 42 million breast cancer patients because the population is young,” Prof. Clement Adebamowo, SOCRON Director said. “ women of ages 25-64 are mostly at risk of cancer of the breast and cervical cancers. They further explained that young ladies between ages 15 years and those at child bearing age are more at risk in the developing countries, whereas in the developed countries like United States and France, older women above the child bearing age are more at risk”.

Their argument was that, since breast-feeding women are more predisposed to breast and cervical cancer, incidence of cancer are likely to multiply in such areas where the population strength lies within the younger generations.”

Rate of women with cancer in Nigeria doubles yearly

Based on the above demographics, Prof. Adabamowo said that the rate of women with cancer in Nigeria doubles yearly due to lack of awareness, shortage of man power for treatment and palliative care, shortage of drugs and lack of proper education.

As far as the SOCORN boss is concerned, lack of clinical infrastructure, absence of care givers, and lack of pain control drugs among others are major factors mitigating against the control and reduction of incidence of cancer in Nigeria.

While lamenting the high incidence of cancer in Nigeria, Prof. Adebamwo said there is no formalised way of caring for cancer, saying that the contemporary issues have proved that cancer is where HIV was some years ago, in terms of number of mortality rate.

He advised women to increase their time of exercise and warned them against the danger of having less pregnancy as it had proved to be another factor leading to breast cancer.

Emotions and wailing can’t cure cancer

Prof. Adabamowo, however submitted that cancer diseases can never be conquered nor quelled by emotions or wailing but can only be conquered by proper awareness and human will.

While regretting that Nigeria is not investing enough in training and research projects, he described healthcare as a major challenge facing the country, which government must take more serious to save millions of its citizens from avoidable deaths.

“Going across borders has been a challenge. We have come to realise that research creates the future and that there cannot be a future without research,” he posited.

Also speaking at the event, Research Professor of Medicine, Northwerstern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, USA, Judith Paice, said that 82 million people are living with cancer in the world, while 17million have died, maintaining that about 26.4 million new cases of cancer are going to be


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