Cancer Survivorship Is Not Beyond Us!
The first Sunday in June is International Cancer Survivors’ Day. It is a day set aside globally, to celebrate all cancer survivors, their families and all those who contributed to their survival (the ‘co-survivors’); a day to show the world that there is life after a cancer diagnosis.
It is a time to stand up for the surviving warriors (those battling with cancer) and to honour the fallen warriors (those who have succumbed to cancer).
It is also a time to advocate for the provision of appropriate infrastructure for improving cancer survivorship in the nations of the world.
International Cancer Survivors’ Day marks the beginning of the National Cancer Week. This Week calls for a sober reflection by all Nigerians. Whilst many nations are celebrating years of improving cancer survivorship and improving quality of life following cancer diagnosis, Nigerians in their hundreds are dying of preventable cancer every day. This scourge spares neither the prominent and wealthy nor the underprivileged poor.
According to latest report by World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria experienced an increase in deaths from the most common cancers in men and women within four years. In 2008, breast cancer killed 30 Nigerian women daily; by 2012 this had risen to 40 women daily.
In 2008 prostate cancer killed 14 Nigerian men daily; by 2012 this had risen to 26 men daily. In 2008 liver cancer killed 24 Nigerians daily; by 2012 this had risen to 32 daily. Every day Nigeria loses about 240 precious lives to cancer! This means that ten Nigerians die of cancer every hour! The good news is that most cancer deaths are preventable.
According to WHO (2002), one-third of cancers is preventable, another one-third is curable and the last third can have good quality of life with appropriate care.
In 2007, the mass medical mission, a non-governmental initiative, pioneered community-based mass cervical cancer screening campaign across Nigeria, known as the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme (NCCPP). This sacrificial effort has contributed to a 15% reduction of cervical cancer deaths in Nigeria from 26 women dying daily to 22 daily between 2008 and 2012 (World Health Organization data).
The significance of this decline is immense, because it reversed the earlier projection of W.H.O. that cervical cancer death rate would increase by 25% within 10 years, in the absence of widespread intervention.
The fact that 22 women still die of cervical cancer every day in Nigeria, is totally unacceptable and intolerable, given the fact that cervical cancer is virtually 100% preventable. Each woman who dies from cervical cancer after years of suffering and pain is someone’s valued life partner, mother, sister, aunt and daughter. According to Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC, “These findings bring into sharp focus the need to implement the tools already available for cervical cancer, notably HPV vaccination combined with well-organized national programmes for screening and treatment”.
The immediate focus of CECP-Nigeria is to acquire and deploy Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC), which will energize the impact of the NCPP particularly on the poor in our country through three separate, yet related interventions, viz:
• Intensive Awareness created by reaching every Local Government Area at least once a year;
• Screening for cancer & the ten Cancer-related killer diseases (Diabetes, Renal Disease, Malaria, Schistosomiasis, obesity, Helicobacter pylori, Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hypertension); and
• Prompt treatment of early cases, combined with an efficient referral of advanced cases.
Each MCC costs USD 600,000 or about 120 million naira at the current exchange rate. The operational cost per 100,000 participants is USD 685,000. This covers the cost of maintenance, personnel and screening for cancer and its risk factors as well as for treating pre-cancer and early cancer free-of-charge.
• Dr. Abia Nzelu (Executive Secretary, CECP-Nigeria) can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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