By Lilian Okoro
Lagos, Sept. 1, 2020 Dr Abia Nzelu, Consultant Ocular Oncologist, has called for adequate management of cancer and adoption of strategies to reduce its prevalence in Nigeria.
Nzelu, Executive Secretary, Mass Medical Mission (MMM), made the call in an interview with newsmen on Tuesday in Lagos.
She decried the growing incidence of the disease and the poor attention given to it by the government at all levels in spite of its ravaging effects.
“The disease has affected the Nigerian population and breast cancer being the highest prevalence,” the oncologist said.
She noted that the dearth of cancer management centres in the country had negative implications on the awareness against the disease prevention and cure.
According to her, the development has also made data collation extremely difficult.
Nzelu, quoting the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data, said that every day in Nigeria, 32 women die of breast cancer, 28 women die of cervical, while 16 men die from prostate cancer.
“This holocaust of untimely death is due to late detection and inadequate treatment as a result of poor infrastructure and lack of organised system of preventive healthcare.
“Cancer registration in Nigeria is very poor, just as there are no real dedicated centres to research into the disease.
“As I speak, there is no functional Comprehensive Cancer Centres (CCC) in the country.
“Nigeria has less than 10 radiotherapy machines to cater for its teeming population against the WHO recommendation of at least one radiotherapy machine for every one million people.
“People that care for cancer patients and medical doctors that specialise in oncology, lack necessary equipment to work with,’’ the expert said.
She said that they were not able to provide adequate care and accurate figures of people affected.
“If we don’t have enough data, we will not be able to plan. We need scientific data to enable us to chart the way forward.
”We need to have background data for all the diseases so that we can plan ahead.
“If we don’t have data, we will not know the burden of cancer on our population,” Nzelu said.
She attributed the poor data collation to shortage of cancer centres.
Nzelu appealed to the three tiers of government to give priority to the fight against the disease by creating more treatment centres.
She said that this could be achieved through political will to establish at least one functional CCC and more cancer management centres where people could go into research about the disease.
The MMM official, therefore, advised the governments to prioritise the management of the disease.
She said that the absence of cancer management centres in the country had drastically slowed down the awareness and sensitisation programmes about the disease.
“Many people are dying silently in villages, not to talk of the public figures that have succumbed to the effects of cancer.
“Government needs to put more funds into research and centres that can handle the screening; investigation and treatment of cancers generally, not only breast cancer,” Nzelu said.
She added that with increase in awareness, people would get more information and know that cancer was a disease that could be managed.