Mrs Ene Adoda, a resident of Abuja, narrated a story of how her mother died of cervical cancer after managing the disease for more than two years at various hospitals.
As a girl, I watched my mother suffer from constant illnesses and the psychological trauma of being alone.
“She was left to cater for us because she was not living with our father for personal reasons, and this compelled her to engage in odd jobs so as to train me and my five siblings.
“She was diagnosed of cervical cancer and the development marked her deteriorating health condition; she died at the age 47 when I was still a little girl,’’ she recalled.
Adoda’s experience aptly typifies the plight of many others, as health experts note that cancer has negatively affected the lives of several people via death of relations, particularly parents or guardians.
The experts observe that the situation is more problematic as investigations reveal that cancer has more than 100 types.
They also cite a report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer which indicates that there will be 21 million new cases of cancer across the world every year.
The reports also states that than13 million deaths from cancer will be recorded by 2030.
All the same, Dr Festus Igbinoba, an oncologist with the National Hospital, Abuja, said: “Most cancers are named after the organ or type of cell which they infect.
“For instance, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer and cancer cells spread to other parts of the body via the blood and lymph systems.’’
Experts, therefore, call for a pragmatic approach to deal with cancer via effective disease control, prevention and management methods.
Citing the effects of cancer, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a breast cancer survivor and the Founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, said that no fewer than 80,000 cancer deaths occurred in Nigeria yearly.
“In Nigeria, the commonest cancers in women are breast and cervical cancers, while prostate cancer is the commonest in men. However, liver and colorectal cancers are common in both sexes.
“Cervical cancer is preventable; yet, it kills one Nigerian woman every hour; we need to start preaching disease prevention methods as the only way of taming this monster,’’ Anyanwu-Akeredolu said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Dr Celsius Undie, an Abuja-based medical consultant, said that prostate cancer could be controlled or prevented if its symptoms were detected early enough.
He called for the introduction of a comprehensive cancer screening programme in the country, insisting that deaths arising from prostate cancer would be reduced significantly via such programmes.
The good news is that modern cancer treatment facilities now exist in the country.
Prof. Temitope Alonge, the Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital, Ibadan, said that the hospital had recently installed a machine for the treatment of cancer.
“We looked at the causes of death in the hospital and found that one of the major causes is cancer; that is why we brought this machine.
“The simulator detects the tumour, while the machine which is called Colbat-60 works through radiation and eliminates the disease; if there is steady electricity, close to 50 patients can be treated within a short time.
“Nigerians should learn to always come for checkups quickly whenever they detect any tumour in any part of their bodies,’’ he said.
But questions are always asked about the factors that predispose people to cancer.
Prof. Ibrahim Katibi, an expert in cardiovascular diseases at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, said that eating processed foods, which contained additives and preservatives, was one of the risk factors.
According to him, processed foods, particularly canned foods, which contain chemicals and additives to prolong their shelf lives, can predispose people to cancer.
He also warned that saturated fats from red meat, including hamburger and fat dairy products, were linked with cancers.
Katibi called for the establishment of a national cancer institute to promote research and training in cancer.
Dr Femi Olaleye, the Medical Director, Optimal Cancer Care Foundation, said that high level of testosterone (male hormone) in black men exposed them to higher risks of contracting prostate cancer.
He explained that prostate cancer was a cancer which developed in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system.
“Being a black person increases one’s risks of contracting prostate cancer, not only black communities in Africa, even those in UK and the U.S.
“There is higher incidence of prostate cancer in black men, compared to white men, and prostate cancer affects only men.
“The common risk factor is genetics; if your father had prostate cancer, there is a five-per-cent to 10-per-cent likelihood that you could have it.
“Smoking is another risk factor; so if you are a smoker, your risk is almost 1.5 per-cent increased; taking alcohol in excess, obesity and sedentary lifestyle also increase the risk of contracting prostate cancer,’’ he noted.
Olaleye said that prostate cancer occurred more commonly among black men, as they matured in age, particularly if they were above 45 years old.
He noted that prostate cancer often went undiagnosed because most men tended to ignore its symptoms such as excessive or frequent urination, adding that in most cases, the manifestation of prostate cancer was somewhat slow.
Olaleye said that the cancer could progress to a point of painful urination and erectile dysfunction if it was not treated on time.
He urged the Federal Government to work towards increasing the public awareness on prostate cancer by mobilising the citizens to undergo cancer screening so as to curb unnecessary deaths from prostate cancer.
Echoing Olaleye’s views, Mrs Irene Audu, the President of Nigerian Cancer Initiative, said that cancer patients in Nigeria needed adequate care.
“However, machine breakdown is a common problem; treatment is also unaffordable for cancer patients. Besides, some patients, who are diagnosed, do not receive treatment because of the cost,’’ she said.
Using breast cancer treatment as reference, Audu said that the treatment was quite expensive “because of breast scan, mammogram, biopsy and other tests, which could cost about N67, 000.
“At the treatment level, an average surgery costs between N50, 000 and N150, 000, while chemotherapy is between N90, 000 and N500, 000.
“The minimum cost of radiotherapy in Nigeria is N100, 000 and anti estrogen treatment is between N2, 500 and N18,000 per month; and the patient is supposed to be on the therapy for five years,’’ Audu said
Health experts, nonetheless, insist that cancer cases are on the increase and warn that they will continue to rise unless adequate steps are taken to ensure cancer prevention, care and management.