Increased screening, surveillance can reverse high liver cancer deaths – Experts

A Consultant Radiation and Clinical Oncologist, Dr Anthonia Sowumi, has lamented the increasing death ratio of liver cancer in Nigeria, stressing that concerted effort is required to reverse the trend.

The associate professor at the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre, said this during the Association of Radiation and Clinical Oncologists of Nigeria symposium held in Lagos to commemorate World Cancer Day celebrated annually on February 4.

Delivering a paper titled, ‘Landscape of Liver Cancer in Nigeria’, she said liver cancer surveillance is a critical intervention that can change the landscape of liver cancer survival in Nigeria.

Sowumi explained that Hepatocellular Carcinoma is the primary malignancy of the liver, noting that it does not show symptoms and is slow-growing.

She noted that the incidence of HCC is highest in Asia and Africa, where the endemic prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C strongly predisposes one to the development of chronic liver disease and subsequent development of HCC.

The expert said that published incidences underestimated the true incidence of the tumour in Nigeria, due to under-diagnosis or not being documented in a cancer registry.

She added, ”Most people present with late-stage disease due to a lack of adequate surveillance. The median survival rate in Nigeria is three to four months.

The specialist pointed out that HCC incidence revealed regional disparities within Nigeria with studies suggesting rates around 11.2 per 100,000 in Maiduguri compared to 4.91 per 100,000 in Ibadan.

According to her, “This variability might be linked to differing HBV/HCV prevalence and aflatoxin exposure levels across regions.

Sowumi advocated for increased screening and surveillance, aggressive campaigns for vaccination, avoiding the intake of aflatoxins, and more collaboration in the management of liver cancers, among others.

Similarly, a Consultant Gastroenterologist, Prof. Uchenna Ijoma said patient care should be from evaluation to diagnosis and treatment, noting that it impacts patient outcomes.

She said that patients were often diagnosed with liver cancer in advanced stages, contributing to its poor prognosis and survival.

According to her, liver cancers constitute the sixth most common cancer and fourth most common cause of cancer mortality globally.

The consultant noted that liver cancer was the fourth among all new cases of cancer in males and the fourth leading cause of cancer mortality over a five-year period.

Meanwhile, ARCON President, Dr Amaka Laosebikan, said putting the spotlight on liver cancer was to draw attention to the increasing incidence of liver cancer in Nigeria.

She noted that the disease was prevalent among the young male population and underscored the importance of screening, and vaccination, stressing that early detection and treatment would save more lives.


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