By Gabriel Olawale
Nigerian cancer experts have expressed concern over late presentation of patients living with cancer in Nigeria.
According to them, early presentation, follow up treatment as well as getting the needed support will increase survival rates of persons living with cancer in the country.
Making his submission during the awareness walk tagged: “Walkathon” to mark this year’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, in Lagos, a Haematology Oncologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Prof Edamisan Temiye described late presentation, as when a patient ignore a disease apparently because it was not causing pain or disturbing at the starting point.
“For cancer, by the time it starts causing pain, the person is already in trouble and cure may not be available any more even when the fellow goes outside the country for treatment.
“Once the cancer is in stages three to four, it becomes a challenge to cure. So, presenting late makes the cure rate to be low in Nigeria.”
Also, high rate of poverty in Nigeria and non-availability of support care like health insurance similarly make cancer treatment too expensive and inaccessible, further reducing rate of cure.
In addition, he said the culture and belief system was also massively affecting the way we address cancer while limiting rate of cure. “We see people that are diagnosed with some very severe and life-threatening diseases, but religious leaders commonise the ailments while influencing patients and their families to take to prayer houses.
He added, “By the time they come back to hospitals, they are gone. These affect treatment outcome in our environment and we need to deal with that.”
On the contrary, Temiye advised persons that develop cancers to present early in hospitals and to support treatment.
According to the haematology oncologist, if a support system should be available just like they are in advanced countries where they do not pay directly for the treatment of cancers, about 90 per cent of persons with cancers survive.
On the contrary, in Nigeria he lamented: “I will say survival rate in Nigeria is below 20 per cent.”
On her part Dr. Mrs Nneka Nwobbi, founder, Children Living with Cancer Foundation (CLWCF), said the foundation had been around for 16 years and had done the awareness walk annually, while giving support to families whose children have cancer. She said, “A child that has cancer does not just have cancer alone; the whole family is affected.
“With me are three cancer survivors who have undergone one form of cancer treatment or the other and to the Glory of God, they are alive and well today.”
Nwobbi appealed to well meaning individuals, public and private companies to reach out with support for children that have cancers.
She explained that the beginning of September, the CLWCF has had events up till the last week when the foundation held the walk which brought together for the walk students, childhood cancer patients and their families, concerned persons and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The walk, which kicked off from LUTH at 8am took participants through Ojuelegba in Surulere, Lagos to the National Stadium and back to LUTH.