Yesterday was another international Cancer Day, when people around the world gather in different countries and cities to discuss the scrooge and create awareness on its causations, proffer remedies and how those that are in need can be assisted to get treatment or management tips.
It is a thing of concern that while death from cancer is reducing in some countries, the statistics is rising at alarming rate in Nigeria and other developing countries especially in Africa.
In the United States for example, death from cancer declined steadily over the past 25 years, according to annual statistics reporting from the American Cancer Society. As of 2016, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 27% from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to about 1.5% per year and more than 2.6 million deaths avoided between 1991 and 2016.
The drop in cancer mortality is mostly due to steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. But not all populations are benefitting.
A total of 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 deaths from cancer are expected to occur in the US in 2019. During the most recent decade of available data (2006 – 2015), the rate of new cancer diagnoses decreased by about 2% per year in men and stayed about the same in women. The cancer death rate (2007 – 2016) declined by 1.4% per year in women and 1.8% per year in men.
But in Africa, Nigeria being one of the countries, feeding on widespread ignorance about the disease, cancer of all forms have continued to wreak havoc on humanity, prematurely cutting down destinies and dreams. It has remained the world’s number one killer disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) not long ago revealed that new cancer cases and deaths in Africa are projected to double by 2040. Statistics have shown that estimated new cases in Nigeria as at 2018 was put at 116,000 while 41 cancer related deaths were also recorded.
Despite efforts by government and other relevant stakeholders to raise more awareness on how to live a healthy life, cancer has continued to be one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. New cases and deaths from cancer continue to rise. In 2012, there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths, whereas in 2018 there were 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths. If current trends are maintained, the cancer burden in Africa is projected to double from 1,055,172 new cancer cases in 2018 to 2,123,245 cancer cases by 2040.
Fact is that most Nigerians cannot afford the cost of cancer care. When it strikes, even the rich become beggars. Therefore Cancer management must be recognised as team work and government must take the lead. Cancer control must be centrally coordinated and the Federal Ministry of Health must take up that role.
We are of the opinion that government should admit that cancer is now an issue of primary health concern and a major cause of premature death of Nigerians irrespective of age, sex, or social class. They should take the bull by the horn by equipping public hospitals and medical centers with effective diagnostic capability to quickly detect and treat cancer infections.
Government at all levels should recognise the urgent need for the institution of a policy for mandatory free annual screening checks at local, state and national levels and put in place long-overdue comprehensive world-class centers for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer is not like malaria or typhoid that weighs you down when it starts. It is not a physical growth that you can easily see. Medical experts call it maligned tumour, it grows abnormally and it spreads. So the earlier you nip it in the bud, the better. A lot of people walk around not knowing that they have this disease inside of them until it gets to a very alarming stage before they find out.
This is why it is also very important to raise awareness on imbibing healthy lifestyle such as good diet, exercise and regular medical checkups. Knowledge is key in the fight against cancer and in getting people to be conscious of their health, they need to know what to do. When people are armed with knowledge, spread of cancer would be reduced.
Regular screening is very important because we believe that some of these issues can be nipped in the bud if it is detected early. If you discover you have an ailment, you take care of it on time. Cancer should not kill anybody anymore because there are opportunities for it to be detected and if detected on time it can be stopped.