Oncologists call for investment in modern cancer prevention, treatment techniques

As the world celebrates World Cancer Day, medical oncologists in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government to invest in modern technologies and techniques in cancer treatment, management and prevention.

They also urged the FG and other professionals in cancer care to embrace treatment options that have worked in Africa, rather than copy procedures that are only suitable for other regions and which may not yield positive results.

Speaking exclusively with PUNCH Healthwise in different interviews to commemorate World Cancer Day, oncologists and radiologists said there is a need for intentional investment in modern ways of cancer treatment, management and prevention, insisting that the cancer situation in Africa is disheartening.

World Cancer Day is celebrated every February 4 to raise awareness of fundamental cancer issues around cancer including prevention and treatment.

A Consultant Radiation Oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Ara, Lagos, Dr Adedayo Joseph, said Nigeria is gradually closing up the gap in cancer treatment and prevention in the country, saying that cancer prevalence in Nigeria is no longer where it used to be in the past 10 years.

She said, “There is a need for improvement. However, the good thing is that there are several professionals including the government focusing on cancer prevention and treatment. In the next 10 years, there will be astronomical progress in this regard.

“We have increased our diagnostic and prevention strength but we still need to invest in modern technologies in cancer prevention and treatment. If we do this, the mortality will reduce drastically.

“The government is making a lot of effort, especially with the Cancer Development Plan, as well as funds, but I think everybody is in a position of power to do something in their very little corner to end cancer by starting with lifestyle modification.

“You don’t have to be a president or a minister before you can do something to prevent cancer. So, this is my advice to every Nigerian.”

On the need for the domestication of cancer treatment, management and prevention in the country, she added, “We need to think of the treatment options that have worked for us in Africa. There are methods that may have worked elsewhere but may not work well here for us. So, we need to do it our own way, using the best techniques that work for us.

“Cancer mortality in Africa is still high and we need urgent measures to ensure that lives are saved through effective treatment, management and prevention.”

A Clinical Oncologist and Chief Clinical Coordinator of NSIA-Lagos University Teaching Hospital Cancer Centre, Dr Habeebu Muhammad, said that the WCD is set aside to create awareness on cancer treatment options and prevention geared at reducing the mortality rate in the world.

He said, “We need adequate investment in health facilities and personnel in Nigeria to be able to fight cancer. We need investment in the areas of diagnosis and cancer treatment by increasing the number of diagnostic and treatment centres across the country. This will increase screening exercises to be able to detect these diseases on time.

“We advocate that the government should improve the health insurance coverage for cancer treatment due to the high cost of the treatment in the country. The government should enforce health insurance policies just like it enforces car insurance. We know that health is even more important than cars. This will help to reduce the burden on the poor masses with cancers.”

He noted that Nigeria and Africa have recorded some improvement in the area of diagnosis but there is also an urgent need to invest in modern treatment techniques to reduce the burden of cancer in Nigeria and the region.

The World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti in a statement to mark the 2024 World Cancer Day, said approximately 1.1 million new cancer cases occurred on the continent, with around 700, 000 deaths in 2020.

She said, “About 50 per cent of new cancer cases in adults in Africa are due to breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancers. If urgent measures are not taken, cancer mortality in the region is projected to reach about one million deaths per year by 2030.

“Between 2022 and 2024, the focus of World Cancer Day is to help close the cancer gap. This year marks the third and final year of the campaign. The theme for this year is ‘Together, we challenge those in power.’ It encompasses the global demand for leaders to prioritise and invest in cancer prevention and care to achieve a just and cancer-free world.

“Nevertheless, we commend the progress made in cancer prevention and care in our region. For instance, 17 countries have introduced high-performance-based screening tests in line with the WHO recommendations.

“Also, 28 of our Member States have introduced nationwide Human Papillomavirus vaccination to reach about 60 per cent of the priority population targeted with HPV vaccination.

“This year’s theme is auspicious as it reinforces all persons and groups’ universal right to health. We believe that regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, and gender, every person must be afforded an equal chance at the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.”

She added, “We call on the region’s countries, communities, partners, and civil society to unite and foster universal access to cancer prevention and care. Stakeholders must identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based population-wide interventions and invest in cancer control.

“Countries should use the updated WHO best buys, the facilitative tool designed to enable governments to select lifesaving policies and interventions for non-communicable diseases.

“Leaders are responsible for ensuring that cancer prevention and care deploy technologies and therapies that are available at low cost to affected persons and their families, which are value for money.

“We reiterate that civil society, especially organisations of cancer survivors or persons with live cancer experiences are critical in the fight against cancer in Africa. Such a whole-of-society approach to cancer prevention and care is the essence of this year’s World Cancer Day theme.”


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