How Frequent Breakdown Of Machines In LUTH Worsens Cancer Cases
MORE than two months ago, the major machines (Cobalt 60 and Linear Accelerators) for treatment of cancer at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba had broken down due to pressure on the machines.
Unfortunately, LUTH, a foremost federal medical institution receives the highest number of cancer patients from within and outside the country.
According to the Head of Department (HoD) Department of Radiation Biology, Radiotherapy Radiodiagnosis and Radiography, College of Medicine, LUTH, Prof. Remi Ajekigbe, “We have about two million cancer cases in the country, with over 100,000 new cases being recorded yearly.”
Of this number, 10 per cent, or about 200,000, have access to hospitals with radiotherapy facilities. About five percent – 10,000 – have the resources to go abroad where they pay between $10,000 and $15,000 per patient for a three-to-five weeks treatment, which translates to about $100,000 yearly. The cost of chemotherapy is about 10 times more than that of radiotherapy.”
He recalled that this is not the first time that the machine will break down. “We thought the last government was going to do something about it. They did not do anything. It was during the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo (in 2007) that the government bought the machines.”
He said that was the first time the government was buying such a machine for the department and it is sad that they cannot maintain it.
“Nigerians are going to India everyday for treatment of cancer; the treatment that we can give them here. Why is somebody not listening to people like us and do the needful to improve the poor state of the medical facilities. It is very frustrating.”
Ajekigbe recalled that in the whole country only the machines for treatment of cancer at the National Hospital, Abuja, Eko Hospital, Lagos (a private hospital) and Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto are working.
“The solution is simple: let the government allocate an oil block for the treatment of cancer. It will help to train manpower and buy equipment at least two machines in a cancer centre. If one is faulty the other will be working.”
He said that availability of resources would even help the patients to pay part of their medical bills. He disclosed that treatment of cancer is very expensive.
“The spare parts to repair the machines can only be procured in Europe, America and Asia.
“We are a consuming nation. You buy a machine today, tomorrow it is obsolete. We need another machine to support the one we have at LUTH and ditto for all the cancer
centres we have in Nigeria. There is the need for more cancer centres.”
He said such machines are very important in the treatment of cancer patients.
“It will stop a cancer patient from bleeding to death. It is used for radiotherapy. It has to work and the machines must be always available. We want the people in authority to come and see things for themselves so that the human feelings in them will make them to do something.
“We almost pray for everybody in the country to have cancer so that the government will know what cancer patients are going through.”
Ajekigbe, with two decades experience in the management of cancer, has managed over 8,000 cases across the globe.
He regretted that across the country, cancer patients source funds for treatment. “They are not fully covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The scheme just has some mechanisms to ensure that some enrollees, with life-threatening conditions and terminal diseases, are supported financially.”
He reasoned that LUTH should divide its Radiation Biology, Radiotherapy, Radiodiagnosis and Radiography Department into two. One, Biology and Radiotherapy; the other, Radiodiagnosis and Radiography. “As it is, it is a five in one department, namely, RB, R, R and R+ Medical Physics.” The division, he said, would ensure better coordination of the treatment of cancer patients.
Though the cause of cancer is unknown, Ajekigbe who is Consultant Radiotherapist and Oncologist said from molecular biology, cancer is recognised as a genetic disease where mutations in genes, inherited or acquired, transit from a normal to a malignant growth.
The rise in cancer cases, according to him, is due to some factors, including genes, environment, socio-economic, race and diet (change in lifestyle by moving from eating organic food to junks; lack of exercise), and endocrine/hormone.
Also, exposure to ionising radiation, oral and non-oral contraceptives, tight under-wears in men (trauma), anthropometric parameters, “invisible evil arrow.”
Ajekigbe said about 27 per cent of the two million cases are breast cancer-related while about 25 percent are cancer of the cervix.