There is no gainsaying that the scourge of cancer and its ravaging effects have long been a recurring decimal and several Nigerian families have experienced the agony of losing relations to the disease. Hardly does a month pass without hearing of the death of a Nigerian to cancer while hundreds of thousands are dying silently.
Globally, cancer is one of the common non-communicable diseases and one-third of it is preventable while another one-third is potentially curable if diagnosed early. The remaining one-third of cases is incurable but treated with palliative care in order to improve the quality of life.
While breast cancer belongs to the group of cancer that is potentially curable if diagnosed early, most cases presented in Nigeria are during the late stage of the disease. Facts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest that the incidence of breast cancer is on the rise in developing countries including Nigeria due to increase life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.
Though early detection is key in improving breast cancer outcome and survival remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control, increased awareness and low-cost screening approaches, such as clinical breast examination, could be implemented in limited resource settings when the necessary evidence from ongoing studies becomes available.
In an interview with BusinessDay, Manjinder Bhatti, head, Vedic Lifecare Hospital revealed that the hospital’s partnership with Genevieve Pinkball Foundation is aimed at creating awareness about breast cancer which is the second largest killer among women after cervical cancer and providing medical support.
With risk factors such as being overweight, drinking alcohol, obesity, early onset of menstrual periods and lifestyle modification implicated in the rise of breast cancer globally, Bhatti stated that the partnership with the Foundation will enable the hospital provide subsidized diagnostics and treatment to 100 breast cancer patients sponsored by the Foundation.
According to Bhatti “The commitment of Vedic Lifecare Hospital is to provide world class healthcare to people of Nigeria through team of Indian and local experts. It is equipped with latest diagnostic facilities to screen and diagnose breast cancer cases. The hospital in association with Manipal hospital India would ensure all treatments like chemotherapy and reconstructive surgeries to patients identified and sponsored by Genevieve Pinkball Foundation.
“The hospital firmly believes right treatment starts with right diagnosis therefore it provide all the diagnostic, treatment and pharmacy solutions under one roof. It was set up in Nigeria with the objective of enhancing the standard and providing quality healthcare. It houses the latest diagnostic equipment and offers the best medical expertise in line with Manipal Care and Cure (MCC), a multispecialty neighbourhood polyclinic and a widely accepted model of healthcare services in India.
A peep into breast cancer in Nigeria reveal that while data from the National System of Cancer registries showed 7,000 new documented cases of cancer which also corresponded with the average estimated 100,000 new cases of cancer reported in Nigeria annually, from the data, 60 percent of cancers occur in women.
Sadly, cancer is seen as a death sentence in Nigeria but due to dearth of awareness among the general populace, ill equipped hospitals, high cost of treatment and fewer treatment centres to tackle the scourge. Nigeria’s mortality and morbidity statistics for cancer remains high as late presentation syndrome involving most cancer patients spending huge sum of money monthly for as long as the patient survives.
With about 200 oncologists exclusively focused on cancer treatment in Nigeria, this development suggests that cancer which is a major health problem requires urgent attention. While the Federal Government had in 2008 established a 5-Year Nigeria Cancer Control Plan, (2008 – 2013), on advocacy and awareness creation, cancer prevention, early detection through regular screening and cancer management, observers believe Nigerians are yet to reap the benefit of this plan six years after the establishment of the Plan.
Nigerians believe there is need to move away from mere rhetoric and settle down for real business of implementation of the various cancer policies. Certain factors, analysts believe should be put in place to mitigate the challenges of diagnosing various forms of cancer. One of these factors is the establishment of adequate cancer screening centres equipped with latest diagnostic facilities to effectively diagnose and manage patient with the disease.
As early diagnosis or awareness of early signs and symptoms as well as breast screening aims to identify individuals with an abnormality suggestive of cancer, integrating Breast Health Education with already existing preventive programs through a working relationship with numerous organizations that have access to these areas will be a step in the right direction.