By Gabriel Olawale
Precisely 14 years ago, Alfred Ohiami, a Pastor of the Fountain of Life Church Ilupeju, had a personal encounter with cancer when his 33-year- old wife died of the disease as a result of late detection.
Ohiami, who is currently the Deputy Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Lagos, said he learned a hard lesson from the experience.
In an encounter with Features Health & Living during a forum held by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, CECP-Nigeria ,to raise awareness about cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment, he told a heart-rending tale of his travails.
He recalled that the delay in seeking a doctor’s consultation caused his wife’s situation to go from bad to worse and by the time she went for consultation and obtained diagnosis of cancer of the oral cavity, it was too late.
“I lost my wife in 2000 to cancer and 10 years later I almost lost my life as well. If not for early detection, it would have been a different story today. In my wife’s case, initially she complained of pain in her wisdom tooth. She kept postponing going to the hospital. We thought it was just normal pain that she would only need to remove the affected teeth, but when we decided to a visit hospital it was already late.
“The doctor observed that the affected tooth was beyond pain and recommended biopsy. The result of that test revealed to us that it was cancer. We travelled to the United Kingdom to seek medical help but by the time they removed the tumour, it had got into the blood stream. Despite series of chemotherapy, she died at the age of 33.”
Alas, 10 years after the death of his wife, Ohiami began to notice strange signs in his own body. It was also cancer. But he had learned his lesson that early detection is key. He wasted no time getting a consultation and today is alive to tell
“My own case would have been the same, I noticed that I was visiting the toilet frequently to the extent that within an hour, I usually visited the toilet two or three times.
I went for test and discovered that my PS was high and when they carried out biopsy they observed that certain levels of cancerous cells had been developing. Luckily for me because it was early stage I was flown to India where the cancer was removed.
Further, Ohiaeri recalled that it was early detection that saved him. “Many people out there are yet to know their status. It is not as if we have no doctors that are knowledgeable about cancer in the country, it is just that the facilities are not always there.
“Since I came back from India, I have discovered the right equipment here are not relatively
available, even the boost scan is only available at the University College Hospital, Ibadan and some few places. One is bound to ask why Nigeria does not have all this equipment.”
With cancer being the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and the likelihood to worsen in developing countries such as Nigeria over the next two decades, experts worry over the need to early diagnosis and treatment.
Management of cancer remains largely conservative and with little or no funding for high-quality research and facilities for treatment, millions of those affected in Nigeria continually remain at risk.
The Executive Secretary, CECP-Nigeria, Dr Abia Nzelu, calls for commitment of resources towards the acquisition of Mobile Cancer Centres, MCCs across the country to facilitate cancer prevention through screening and early treatment at the grassroots.
Nzelu notes that thousands of Nigerians do not survive cancer as a result of late detection.
“At CECP our focus is to take cancer prevention to the grass roots through the acquisition of 37 Mobile Cancer Centres, MCCs at the cost of N95 million each for all states in the country including FCT.
According to the WHO, over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually, and about 80,000 die from the disease; this comes to 240 Nigerians every day or 10 Nigerians every hour, dying from cancer.