• Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Safeguarding Nigerian men from the scourge of prostate cancer


Globally, cancer is a public health problem affecting all categories of persons, and a leading cause of death in developed and developing countries including Nigeria. With prostate cancer now the number one cancer killer of Nigerian men, this non-communicable disease has a mortality rate of over 80 percent.

Recent report by World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that within a period of four years, deaths from prostate cancer in Nigeria increased by almost 100 percent, killing 26 men daily, up from 14 men every day. This increase is evident following reports in the media of prominent Nigerians who have died of the disease in recent times.

While Nigerian prostate cancer statistics is alarming and outrageous given the fact that prostate cancer is curable if detected early, experts have called for increasing public awareness on the importance of prostate health, providing easily accessible prostate cancer screenings, educating about risk factors and symptoms of prostate cancer and advocating for further research on prostate cancer.

In an interview with BusinessDay, Abia Nzelu, executive secretary, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP-Nigeria), said while the responsible behind the high mortality rate of prostate cancer in the country is not far –fetched, lack of awareness and inadequate infrastructure and manpower for cancer prevention and treatment has fuelled its incidence in Nigeria.

Nzelu maintained that in order to improve prostate cancer survivorship, it is important for every man to know his risk of prostate cancer as well as the signs and symptoms.

“The risk factors of prostate cancer could be classified as modifiable (can be changed) and non-modifiable (cannot be changed). The major non-modifiable risk factors include: age, race and family history of prostate cancer. The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50.

“Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles one’s risk. The risk is higher for men who have a brother with the disease than for those with an affected father. Men with several affected relatives have a much higher risk, particularly if their relatives were young at the time the cancer was found,” Nzelu explained.

She continued: “The modifiable risk factors include diet, obesity, smoking, workplace exposures and sexual activity. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.

“Men who are obese have a higher risk of getting more aggressive prostate cancer. Smoking has been linked to a possible small increase in the risk of death from prostate cancer. There is evidence that fire fighters are exposed to toxic combustion products that may increase their risk.

While risk factors do not tell everything, every man should be aware of the symptoms of prostate cancer. This comes as prostate cancer occurs more often in Africans at an earlier age in blacks and is more aggressive in blacks.

With difficulty in passing urine, poor urine flow, bloody urine, frequent passage of urine especially at night and inability to hold urine, weakness or numbness in the legs/feet/even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord are symptoms associated with prostate cancer, the need to address this worrisome health issue, many Nigerians believe is not negotiable given the implication to productivity and national economy.

There is urgent need to make prostate cancer screening widely available and accessible to all Nigerian men. According to the World Health Organisation, “We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem. More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.”

For Nzelu “An excellent way of providing easily accessible prostate cancer screenings would be the deployment of Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC) which would take holistic health promotion to the grassroots of Nigeria. The campaign to actualise this is the present focus of CECP-Nigeria.

“An MCC is not the same as a Mobile Mammogram. Rather, it is a clinic on wheels, in which screening, follow-up and treatment (including surgeries), can take place. It includes facilities for mammography, sonology, colonoscopy, colposcopy and cryotherapy, as well as a surgical theatre.

“It is also equipped with a laboratory for screening against certain cancers like prostate, colon and bladder cancer and other common diseases which are known to increase the risk of cancer. These include malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, kidney disease, hypertension and HIV/AIDS. The MCC would tackle the double burden of disease i.e. Communicable & Non-Communicable with each MCC costing N95m.

The Collaborative Research- USA Network of Mobile Clinics aptly summarised the value of mobile healthcare thus: “The mobile clinic sector is an untapped resource for helping the nation reduce health disparities while improving care, improving health and saving healthcare costs.” Interestingly, there are over 2,000 mobile health units in the United States of America, in addition to over 1,500 Comprehensive Cancer Centres and a National Cancer Institute (NCI).

All hands needs to be on deck in order to stem the cancer menace in our dear nation.

Paul Kleihues, director, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and co-editor of the World Cancer Report 2012 said: “We can make a difference by taking action today. We have the opportunity to stem this increase. This report calls on Governments, health practitioners and the general public to take urgent action. Action now can prevent one third of cancers, cure another third, and provide good, palliative care to the remaining third who need it.”

There is no better legacy than to be remembered by posterity as one who brought life and health to the community. A great way of immortalising our departed loved ones would be to use their death from cancer as a spring board for saving lives by donating an MCC in their memory.

Nigeria desperately needs people of goodwill like Dorab Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, who revolutionised cancer care in India. He did this by establishing the first Indian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in 1941, following the treatment of his wife for blood cancer in England.

To mark the Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, there will be free prostate cancer screening at the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP) centre at 30, Ishaga Road, Surulere, Lagos, billed to hold from 2pm on Saturday 13th and 20th of September, 2014.

Interested participants are to register by sending their full names, email addresses and preferred date of attendance as an SMS to the short code: 44777 from any of the major mobile networks.

Kemi Ajumobi