THE annual World Cancer Day – February 4 – is set aside by the World Health Organisation, WHO, to raise awareness on cancer, encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment, passed quietly with appropriate speeches that have been recycled over the years.
This year, political campaigns seized the spaces, taking the global event lower in our national attention notches. Cancer is a global epidemic, becoming the number one killer of mankind in 2010. One-third of the world’s population would be diagnosed with cancer in its lifetime. It is projected that by 2030, one in every two persons will be diagnosed of cancer in their lifetime.
According to the WHO, over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually, and about 80,000 die – 240 Nigerians daily or 10 Nigerians hourly. The Nigerian cancer death ratio of 4:5 is one of the worst globally. Cervical cancer which is 100 per cent preventable kills a Nigerian woman every hour. Breast cancer kills 40 Nigerians daily (30 daily in 2008). Prostate cancer kills 26 Nigerian men daily (14 daily in 2008). These three common cancers alone kill 90 Nigerians daily, due mainly to poor infrastructure. Nigeria has no Mobile Cancer Centres and no single Comprehensive Cancer Centre; most Nigerians have no access to optimal cancer treatment. A Comprehensive Cancer Centre costs about $63 million, while a Mobile Cancer Centre costs about $600,000. Nigerians spend $200 million annually on treatment abroad, enough to establish three Comprehensive Cancer Centres or to acquire 300 Mobile Cancer Centres. The outcome for Nigerians who seek treatment abroad is often poor because of late detection. Cervical cancer underscores the fact that cancer is preventable. Cervical screening is painless and takes only about five minutes.
Pre-cancer changes are easy to treat by an outpatient procedure lasting 15 minutes. Cervical cancer is disappearing in the West but remains the number one cancer killer of African women. The National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme, a non-governmental initiative, pioneered community-based, mass cervical cancer screening campaign in Nigeria. With limited resources, over 100,000 Nigerians were screened and treated and awareness created since 2007. Its effort significantly contributed to 15 per cent reduction in cervical cancer deaths in Nigeria, from 26 women daily to 22 daily, between 2008 and 2012, WHO said, a significant improvement, given that WHO projected 25 per cent increase in cervical cancer deaths in 10 years.
Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP-Nigeria), a private initiative has a short-term goal of deploying 37 Mobile Cancer Centres, one for each state and FCT Abuja; for cancer prevention and early treatment in rural Nigeria. The defeat of cancer is not beyond us, if private and public resources are polled to tackle it.