World Unite Against Cancer


Nigerians joined the global fora to mark the World Cancer Day with calls for more sensitization programmes to educate the masses on early detection and prevention of the disease which recorded 10, 000 new cases last year

By Chinwe Okafor  |  Feb. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA joined the world to commemorate the World Cancer Day on Tuesday, February 4. Both the federal and state governments, United Nations and some non-governmental organisations held activities to sensitize the public on the early detection and prevention of the disease at a briefing to commemorate the 2014 World Cancer Day, with the theme “Debunk the Myths.” The federal government has pledged to scale up the capacity of health workers for early diagnosis and prevention of cancer. Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said there were about 10,000 new cases of cancer in the last one year, adding that government had established cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment centres to curtail the disease.

According to him, government was committed to ensuring that Nigerians have access to good treatment and management of cancer. Chukwu added that radiotherapy and nuclear medicine services for treatment of cancer would be made available to 10 federal tertiary health institutions by the end of 2016. “A technical working group will soon be inaugurated to scale up cervical cancer screening project in Nigeria. This will further expand our current effort in cervical cancer prevention. The focus on cervical cancer is because of its prevalence in Nigeria as it is the second commonest cancer after breast cancer, and the fact that it is preventable,” he said. Chukwu advised the public to endeavour to go for routine checkup, adding that early detection of the disease remained the best and the cheapest method of management of the disease.


However, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has, however urged the Taraba Government to set up cancer screening centres across the state so as to encourage early detection and treatment of the disease. Fabian Ayuba, head Jalingo office of the United Nations, UN, agency, said that early screening for cancer would help in reducing the devastating effects of the disease, especially among women. “I urge the Taraba State Government to create more cancer screening centres across the state to foster early detection and treatment of the disease. Early detection of breast and cervical cancer usually helps in no small measure to save lives,” he said, urging all stakeholders to join hands in fighting the menace.

Wada Sani, state chairman of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, urged all tertiary health institutions in the state to create cancer desks to assist them in updating the state government on the disease. He commended Jamila Umar, wife of the acting governor, for initiating free screenings for breast and cervical cancer for women in the state. Umar pledged to take the free screening programme to the rural communities to enable more women to know their cancer status.

Similarly, Florence Ajimobi, wife of the governor of Oyo state, has also distributed more than 1000 self-examination breast cancer kits. She stated that as an advocate of women’s right, she is of the strong opinion that women should no longer be allowed to die from breast cancer. Also, Omolewa Ahmed, wife of Kwara state governor, has promised more advocacy which would aim at checking occurrence of breast and cervical cancer among women in the state. She expressed sadness that cancer had claimed several lives among women and promised that her office would not relent in the fight against the scourge. She said that her project which is the LEAH Charity Foundation Cancer Centre in IIorin, has provided various machines for Women to undergo cancer screening at an affordable cost. “Parents should closely monitor the activities of their female children against early sex so as to guide against cancer,” Ahmed said.

Medical experts said that 30 percent of cancers can be prevented through healthy life style. This is even as they blamed superstitious beliefs as a major factor fueling cancer treatment abandonment in the country. Omolola Salako, executive secretary, Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, said that 30 percent of cancers could be prevented by not using tobacco, having a healthy diet, being physically active and moderating the use of alcohol. She said that in developing countries up to 20 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented by immunisation against the infection of hepatitis B virus and human Papilloma virus.


Salako, who identified awareness as the first step to early detection and improving cancer outcomes, regretted that in Nigeria, 85 percent of patients who present their cases in advance stages of the disease are having poor attendant outcome.

Corroborating her views, Clement Adebamowo, principal investigator of the National System of Cancer Registries, NSCR, said that smoking, obesity and HIV increases the risk of acquiring certain cancers. He advised Nigerians to reduce their risk of acquiring cancer by living healthy lifestyles. “Smoking is associated with lung cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer. There are also infections like hepatitis, HIV and human papilloma virus that increase the risk of certain cancers.”

He also added that the lack of physical activity among Nigerians, especially the working class increases the risk of obesity and therefore causes breast cancer, prostate, and colon cancer. Adebamowo, who is also the director strategic information, training and research of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, IHVN, disclosed that the Institute in collaboration with the government had established the National System of Cancer Registries to address the lack of data on the occurrence of cancer in the country.

According to him, cancer registries are important because they help us to know which cancers are occurring, where they are occurring and whether the rate at which they are occurring are changing over time. This can give a clue to cause of cancer in the country. Nneka Nwobbi, president, Children Living with Cancer Foundation, CLWCF, on her part, decried the rate of treatment and blamed it on ignorance and superstition surrounding anything in Nigeria. She said: “Complete treatment at a go is hard to see in Nigeria. The parents discharge their kids against medical advice while some don’t come back as at when due because of this, by the time they come back, even those caught early may have spread.”


She called for massive awareness on cancer as well as the need to improve the support systems such as transfusion, imaging, oxygen and the need to resolve crisis among healthcare workers to ensure uninterrupted healthcare. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, enjoined the government around the world to move to stop the millions of predicted, needless and premature deaths caused by cancer. This could be achieved by developing and implementing a national plan which includes proven preventive and early detection measures. The IARC however, expressed concern over the increase in new cases of cancer, predicting that about 25 million individuals will be infected annually with the disease within the next 20 years. It also noted that the number of deaths that occurred due to the disease amongst the world’s poor masses is growing at a faster rate than previously expected, adding that it has been discovered that currently; 4.2 million people die premature yearly due to the disease across the world.

The World Cancer Day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control, UICC, to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration written in 2008. The primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce death and illness caused by cancer by 2020. The Day’ is celebrated annually on February 4 to deepen understanding of this killer disease.

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