Nigeria: Groups call for action to close gap in care as world marks Cancer Day

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The World Health organization (W.H.O) says Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide which accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. In Nigeria, One hundred and twenty-four thousand, eight hundred and fifteen (124,815) new cancer cases were recorded in the same year, the Global Cancer Observatory reports.

The most common types of cancer in Africa’s most populous country are breast and cervical cancer, which accounts about for 50.3% of all cancer cases.

Acoording to the.President of the Nigerian Cancer Society, Professor Adamu Umar, cancers have emerged as a leading health problem in Nigeria.

While the Nigerian government in collaboration with the Nigerian Cancer Society and its affiliates work to reduce the incidence of the disease in the country, the story of Oluchi Onyekwere reminds every one of the existence and danger of the disease.

The final year student of the School of Nursing, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) beat cancer eight years ago. Her experience fighting the disease inspired her to become a trained Nurse.

‘’I am a childhood cancer survivor, the fight was not actually easy, it was actually a great fight. So, I wanted to become a Nurse to save warriors, because back then I said that I will become a warrior to save warriors: like I will become a survivor to save warriors.” said the trainee nurse at LUTH, Idi-Araba, Surulere, Lagos.

At just eight years old, Oluchi was diagnosed with Ovarian Dysgerminoma which she battled for six years.

Luckily for the twenty-two-year-old nursing student, she survived cancer after years of treatment which she says was very expensive, mentally and physically stressful.

She credited her parents, acquaintances and children living with at the Cancer foundation for coming to her aid. Oluchi who wants to be an inspiration for cancer patients in Nigeria and worldwide says help is often needed for chemotherapy and in the purchase of drugs for cancer patients.

She said “I feel the government can help in reducing the price of these drugs, not necessarily giving it to them free”.

Oluchi added that in 2014, the cost of a Vial was around one hundred thousand naira (₦100,000). "It was really expensive; we can have cancer foundation help to give children free access to these drugs."

On Friday February 4, the world brings to attention the disease. The theme for the 2022 World Cancer Day is ‘Close the Care Gap’. And as part of activities to mark the day, campaign groups in Nigeria are calling for more action to close the gap in care.

The Programme Director, at Sebeccly Cancer Care Ifeanyi Chukwuma (PhD), a non profit organisation which provides cancer care for men and women says her organisation is committed to improving the survival rates of cancer patients in Nigeria.

“Cancer is really enormous so it is never ending, the same way research is always going on new ways to fight cancer is the same way that in practicality you know more things will still be done”.

For her, more effort has been put in the fight against cancer, but she called for support for organizations involved in reducing the rate of the disease in the country.

Early Detection and Awareness

Medical Practitioner, Doctor Fejiro Ogwor believes early detection and awareness are important in fighting Cancer.

“Screening is very important in detecting cancer very early or even before it develops. At a very nascent or early stage it picks it up so that treatment is easier and cheaper.” Dr Ogwor told Africanews correspondent David Taylor in Lagos.

The Senior Medical Officer at Pearl Oncology explained that "for colorectal cancer, once someone is like 50years of age, a colonoscopy can be done which is when they put a camera up the anus every ten years and it can find any precancerous lesion or polyps and they can remove it before it even becomes cancer in contrast to someone who does not do it.”

A major barrier to cancer care in Nigeria is the lack of education and awareness about the disease. For Doctor Ogwor, the more awareness about the disease, the better the fight would be.

According to him, Nigerians are superstitious and religious about the disease forgetting that anyone can get cancer.

Africanews correspondent in Lagos David Taylor reports that to mark this year's cancer day, various groups and associations have lined up activities such as screening, testing, and the education of individuals to create awareness on the dangers of the disease in the country.

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