Nigeria to Launch National Cancer Control Plan


Isaac Adewole

Obaseki tasks researchers on urgent cure, Adewole urges physical exercise

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

As part of activities marking World Cancer Day 2018, the Federal Government will on Friday, February 9 launch a four-year action plan on cancer. The four-year National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022) will be launched by the heath minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole.
The Executive Director of Project Pink Blue, Ms. Eunice Chidebe, disclosed this on Saturday in Abuja during the World Cancer Day 2018 walk convened by the organisation to create awareness against the disease.

Chidebe said the Project is to appeal for treatment support for three cancer patients; Kauna Monday, Beatrice Aghabo and Nkem Chibuzor who need N2.8 million, N3 million and N1 million respectively.

Soliciting support for the women, she said 65 per cent of cancer deaths occur in low and middle income countries like Nigeria, stressing that in the country, over 102,000 people are newly diagnosed of cancer and many of them could not afford their cancer care and treatment.

According to her; “30 Nigerian women die every day from breast cancer, death from prostate cancer is easily preventable if detected early and yet it kills 14 Nigerian men every day”.

World Cancer Day, she said, is commemorated globally by millions of people across the globe with cancer awareness, walk, fund raising and otherwise. He said the organisation has recorded tremendous success in the last three edition of walk against cancer with the objective of “raisins awareness on cancer, promoting early detection of cancer and raising funds for cancer patients in Nigeria”
She said the Board Chair of Project Pink Blue, Prof. P Ebigbo will launch “Upgrade Oncology: US- Nigeria science and technology exchange programme”, which is a medical oncology training program funded by the US Embassy in Nigeria, while there will be a presentation of an insight on the bill signed by President Muhammadu Buhari for the establishment of the National Institute on Cancer Research and Treatment.

The 2018 walk took participants across major streets of Abuja such Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Shehu Shagari Way and Ahmadu Bello Way with about 2000 people comprising of stakeholders, rights activists, students, journalists, cyclists, power bike riders and roller skaters also feature human rights campaigner Joe Okei- Odumakin, veteran broadcaster Sadiq Baba, cancer survivor Adenike Oyetunde and some victims.

Odumakin, who is the president of Women Arise said “cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. In Nigeria reports say that over 80,000 Nigerians die of cancer annually. Painfully, they die when we needed them most; more people are dying in their prime.”
The World Cancer Day 2018 activities were organised in collaboration with Centre for Media and Information Literacy and media organisations in Nigeria which include THISDAY newspaper.

Meanwhile, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has called for scientists across the globe working on the cure for cancer to intensify efforts in the discovery of an urgent cure for the illness to bring succour to those suffering from the ailment.
He also made a case for urgent action by relevant stakeholders in the health sector on cancer management while the cure tarries, urging for increased awareness on precautionary measures to control the illness.

Obaseki said this on the occasion of the World Cancer Day, which is marked globally on February 4, by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

The governor, who said the incidence of cancer-related deaths in Nigeria was worrisome, maintained that there was need for increased advocacy championed by scientists, the private sector and civil society groups to educate the populace on precautionary measures against cancer.

He said, “On a day like this, it is important to reiterate the need for coordinated action by all relevant stakeholders in the health sector on the management and control of cancer. Though we may have recorded numerous deaths of persons from cancer, there is still a lax attitude to push for solutions that would reduce these deaths.

He added, “Coalitions to tackle cancer-related causes may have been formed but the contribution from many Nigerians have been underwhelming. It is important to make a case for better funding, research and awareness on cancer in-country and for state and federal government agencies charged with the mandate to do this, should be given all the necessary financial and in-kind support.”

The primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce illnesses and deaths caused by cancer in 2020, after the World Cancer Declaration was made in 2008. The day targets mis-information, raises awareness, and tackles stigma associated with the illness.
In a related development, the Minister has called on Nigerians to always engage in physical exercises to reduce the risk of having cancer. Adewole said any form of physical activity that is consistent will promote healthy living, reduce obesity and sedentary lifestyle, and other non-communicable diseases.

The Minister made the call in Abuja on Saturday as Nigeria joined the world in commemorating the 2018 World Cancer Day.
In his World Cancer Day message, Adewole stated that this year’s theme was geared towards exploring individual and collective drive in reducing the global burden of cancer. He said the campaign outlined actions that communities and individuals could take to save lives, achieve greater equity in cancer care and make fighting cancer a priority at the highest political level.

On individual’s role in fighting cancer, Adewole said individuals could make healthy lifestyle choices by engaging in weekly physical activities for at least two and half hours for adult and an hour for children.

Other lifestyle modifications that the minister mentioned included avoiding tobacco smoking and chewing, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and staying safe under the sun. He also emphasised high index of suspicion for early symptoms and signs of cancer was key, because finding cancer early makes it easier to treat and cure.

Adewole also said communities should dispel myths that led to stigma and discrimination against people living with cancer among them. He called on governments to commit adequate resources to reduce cancer death and provide better quality of life for patients and survivors.
He however informed that the Ministry of Health had made significant effort in awareness creation by developing jingles on cancer awareness in five Nigerian languages viz: English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and ‘Pidgin-english’. These, Adewole said were available for broadcast to the general public on Radio and social media.

In the same vein, the Ministry is continuing her partnership with the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NUWRT) to broadcast the awareness jingles on another 1000 long distance buses while the office of National Coordinator for Cancer Programme, Federal Ministry of Health provided technical and material support, the Minister informed.

The Minister further said that the recent unveiling of a new Radiotherapy machine at National Hospital Abuja (NHA) would provide for easy access to radiation treatment for Nigerians.

He disclosed that another new machine donated by Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) is within the country and would be operational at NHA in the next few months.

The facility at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) should be offering full and uninterrupted service by June 2018. He further stressed the commitment of FGN to rolling out nationwide screening for breast and cervical cancer in women and prostate cancer among men in 2018.

Despite these giant strides, the Minister regretted that there remained some factors militating against these efforts to effectively combat the scourge of cancer in Nigeria.

The key barriers to treatment of cancer in Nigeria, the Minister said, included: Poor awareness, poor health seeking behaviour, low level of non-governmental investments, low number of skilled health care personnel, funding Gaps, amongst others.
To surmount these barriers, Adewole said, government was committed to the development of the Public Private Partnership strategies to address the funding gaps and manpower shortages.

He therefore called on interested stakeholders in the national and international arena to partner with the Ministry of Health so that more laudable achievements could be recorded in the management of cancer cases in the country.

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