By Uche Amunike
Nigerian citizens suffering from the deadly disease, Cancer, are decrying the poor access they have to cancer care because of the low number of treatment centres, high cost of treatment and cancer specialists in the country as the world celebrates World Cancer Day 2022.
These patients and medical experts have made a call to government at every level, stakeholders and philanthropists to help subsidize the treatment for cancer in order to reduce the hardships faced by these patients while bridging the gaps in cancer care in the country.
Speaking on the cancer data in Nigeria, the president of the Nigeria Cancer Society, Dr Adamu Alhassan Umar stated that the most common cancers prevalent in Nigeria are breast, prostate and cervical cancers.
He further stated that Globacan estimate of Cancer data presently shows that Nigeria has recorded N124,000 new cases of cancer in 2020 out of which 78,000 people already lost their lives.
He sadly noted that as at December 2021 only three cancer treatment centres in Nigeria could boast of functional radiotherapy machines used for radiation in cancer treatment, out of the seven cancer treatment centres in the country.
The seven tertiary hospitals in Nigeria that have these radiotherapy machines are:
The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-araba; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Usman Dan Fodio Teaching Hospital, Sokoto; National Hospital, Abuja; University College Hospital, Ibadan and University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin.
He explained that the functional radiotherapy machines at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and the National Hospital, Abuja, while adding that the National Hospital, Abuja and University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu have a private public partnership agreement that makes it possible for private stakeholders to assist in the maintenance and operation of the radiotherapy machines.
Hear him: ‘For example, in the North, only one is currently functional. That is the one at the National Hospital, Abuja. I learnt they are replacing the old machine in Sokoto with a new one which is actually good but the problem is that the time in changing and maintaining the equipment costs the patients dearly’.
‘Imagine a patient travelling all the way from Borno State or Yobe State for radiotherapy treatment at the National Hospital, Abuja, or in Lagos and then travelling back to continue other forms of treatment. So it is actually telling on patients and this is the problem that we have in Nigeria’.
As the global celebration of the world cancer day 2020 reverberates all over the world, he pressed that there is a need to adopt a maintenance culture and qualified personnel to handle these machines just as it is expedient to have them in basically every hospital that manages cancer patients in the country.
He called on the government and lawmakers to make appropriate policies that will bridge the gaps and see to the availability of cancer centres for screening treatment and palliative care.
Still on the World Cancer Day 2020 and the challenges faced by Cancer patients in Nigeria, Cancer Control Advocate, Runcie Chidebe maintained that the huge gap between the number of patients with this disease and doctors has led to an increase in the time spent at the hospital before seeing a doctor.
Runcie, who is also the Executive Director, Project Pink Blue, said that the government needs to give more attention to cancer care in the country because less than 90 cancer specialists are in charge of treating over 100,000 cancer patients.
He maintained that the cancer treatment centres are poorly equipped and that there’s no government owned facility that has a radiotherapy machine centre in the entire South South or even the North East Zones.
He also noted that there was no available Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan in the entire country and it is important in cancer treatment and management.