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Alarming  cancer increase in Nigeria

The increasing incidence   of cancer in Nigeria is very alarming and therefore must be treated as a national health issue. Recently, a surgical oncologist, Prof. Emmanuel Ezeome expressed concern over the increasing number of cancer cases, especially in the South East and the country in general. At the 90th annual lecture of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, he lamented that the increasing cases of the life threatening disease should give everyone reason for concern. The medical expert was of the view that even when the incidence is increasing, it can still can be cured if sufferers take proactive measures. “One thing is needed for survival. Victims should not waste time to lodge complaint at the hospital”.
While we share this concern, it is imperative for governments at all levels to see the increasing incidence of cancer among the general population as a national emergency in order to put in place adequate measures to combat it. Definitely, very many Nigerians are still ignorant of cancer and its causes. There is a tendency to see cancer as  confined only to the affluent societies of America, Europe and Asia. Such ignorance is exacerbated by a seeming superstition that still pervades the country, especially among the illiterate population who believe it is an affliction from the gods.
For the avoidance of doubt, cancer is a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Most cancers are related to environmental, lifestyle, or behavioural exposures. Some of the common environmental factors that contribute to cancer death include tobacco, diet and obesity, radiation (both ionizing and non-ionizing), stress, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants. Increasingly, breast and cervix cancer are   the most commonly diagnosed in women. Also, women who have no children or who have their first pregnancy after the age of 30 have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who become pregnant while they are much younger. Research also shows that childhood cancers account for one percent of all new diagnoses, while the common types in men include prostrate, lung and colon cancer, Furthermore, it is established that  the risk of getting cancer increases with age as most cases occur in middle-aged adults or older persons. In the face of these fact,  the authorities, including non-governmental agencies must embark on massive sensitisationprogramme among the general population in order to educate them on early detection of cancer and the causes. The problem is compounded more by the lack of medical facilities to treat cancer patients in the country. That is why there is exodus of sufferers to such countries as India and China for treatment. This medical tourism is responsible for draining the country’s lean resources.  Besides, only the rich  can afford such treatment. While the fact of urbanisation and increasing income could be linked to the increase of cancer in Nigeria, it is in the place of the government and people to change some negative lifestyles in order to curb the alarming cancer increase.

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