• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerians spend $200m annually on medical tourism

Nigeria loses 500 medical consultants to foreign countries in 2 yrs – MDCAN

The prevalence of cancer-related ailments in the country is disturbingly on the increase as Nigerians are reported to be spending over $200million, an equivalent of N40 billion annually, on medical tourism.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually, and about 80,000 die from the disease. This amounts to 240 Nigerians every day or 10 Nigerians every hour, dying from cancer related ailments. The Nigerian cancer death ratio of 4 in 5 is one of the worst in the world.

“Painfully radiotherapy which is one of the essential treatments needed to manage cases of cancer is unavailable in most tertiary hospitals in Nigeria. Only four public hospitals and one private hospital have such facilities in Nigeria, and at the moment some of these are not functional,” Abia Nzelu, executive secretary, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP-Nigeria) said.

It is also reported that Nigeria has no Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC); therefore, most Nigerians have no access to basic cancer screening. Likewise, Nigeria has no  Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC); therefore, most Nigerians have no access to optimal cancer treatment.

A Comprehensive Cancer Centre costs about $63 million, while a Mobile Cancer Centre costs about $600,000.

Interestingly, Nigerians spend $200 million annually on treatment abroad. Curiously, $200 million is the approximate amount needed to establish three Comprehensive Cancer Centres or acquire 300 Mobile Cancer Centres.  “Unfortunately, the outcome for Nigerians who embark on cancer-related medical tourism is often poor, because of late detection.

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Cancer constitutes a preventable major drain on our human and financial resources. World Cancer Day (February 4 every year) is set aside by the United Nations (UN)/WHO to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

The theme for World Cancer Day 2015 is ‘Not Beyond Us,’ which takes a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist and that they are within our reach.

Regrettably, “more than 40 per cent of cancer occurs in women. Breast and cervical cancer are the commonest forms of cancer and they occur in women. “Cancer can happen to anyone but it does not have to be a death sentence if it is detected early,” Aderemi Ajekigbe, Professor of Radiotherapy and Oncology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos said.

Jennifer Smith, Executive Director Cervical Cancer Free Coalition, explained that, “Cervical cancer is a preventable ailment, yet we are still seeing so many deaths around the world. At Cervical Cancer Free Coalition we are working towards building networks across the globe to help support our common goal of a world free of cervical cancer.”

There is no running away from the fact that cancer is a global epidemic. In 2010 it became the number one killer disease of mankind. One out of every three persons is diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The worldwide burden of cancer doubled between 1975 and 2000 and is set to double again by 2020 and nearly triple by 2030. It is projected that by 2030, one in every two persons will be diagnosed of cancer in their lifetime.

Even though it is reported that deaths from infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS will decline by seven million yearly, such is not the case with cancer. Report holds that 70 percent of cancer deaths take place in developing nations like Nigeria.

The truth is that the global incidence of cancer is soaring and death rates are higher in Nigeria because cancer patients are usually poor and they have little access to treatment in the country,” Ajekigbe said, adding that, “at every time, there are only four functioning radiotherapy machines in the country, others may have broken down due to the high patient load on it. Patients who can afford it will travel out when they can no longer wait for the machines to start working while the poor patients suffer in silence.”

WHO report states that, one- third of all cancers can be prevented; another one- third can be effectively cured with early diagnosis, and palliative care can improve the quality of life of the last third.

Ebunola Anozie, CEO, Care Organisation Public Enlightenment (COPE), says: “We are aware that one out of every 12 women will have breast cancer. A woman’s choice about the way she lives can help lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Public awareness about cancer should be increased. This should extend not only to the health sector but agriculture, sports, education, women affairs and poverty alleviation, information and industry”.

The war against cancer is designed to establish the infrastructure for efficient and effective cancer prevention and treatment in Nigeria. CECP’s operational partner for the war is the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP). The goal of the war is to acquire and deploy 37 Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC), one for each state and FCT Abuja; these will take cancer prevention and early treatment to the grassroots, by energizing the impact of NCPP. As a longer-term goal, the CECP is committed to spearheading the establishment of one Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) in each of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones.