• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Poor cancer treatment puts productivity at risk


Cancer, a disease dreaded by many people, comes in different forms to cause not only untold physiological hardships, but also costing several millions of naira in treatment, depending on how long it takes to get cured, if at all cure comes.

In Nigeria, there are 100,000 new cases of cancer annually, with about 80,000 people succumbing to the disease, and according to 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, so far, 2.083 million people have died of cancer.

Fatimah Abdulkareem, a professor of anatomic pathology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said in a presentation, “Cancer is a public health problem world-wide affecting all categories of persons. It is the second common cause of death in developed countries and among the three leading causes of death in developing countries.

“The productivity of Nigeria’s workforce suffers significantly when young vibrant people are inflicted with cancers. Some cancers may block channels in the body and stop particular body systems working so well. Some cancers may cause changes in the body by pressing on surrounding body tissues or organs.

“Cancer and its treatments can sometimes weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to other potential ailments or diseases, which may attack an individual, however, some treatments can boost the immune system to fight cancer.”

Presently, there are eight known hospitals with radiotherapy machines in Nigeria – Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH); University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin; University College Hospital, Ibadan; National Hospital, Abuja; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria; Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, and Eko Hospital, a Lagos-based private hospital.

Out of these, only three are known to be working – LUTH, National Hospital, Abuja, and Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

Abia Nzelu of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) noted that, “out of every five Nigerians with cancer, only one survives.

“In the specific case of blood cancer, out of every 30 Nigerians (often young adults and children), only one survives. Meanwhile, at the Tata Cancer Centre in India, the survival rate for blood cancer is 99 percent. Behold the future generation of Nigeria wasting away from conditions that could be controlled medically. Alas, Nigeria is a nation where wealth accumulates and men decay,” Nzelu said.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) stated: for many young adults, appearance and physical strengths and abilities are an important part of self-image. When your appearance changes or you aren’t able to do the things you once did, you may feel self-conscious. You may even feel insecure about changes that others can’t see, including fatigue, hidden scars, infertility, or early menopause.

“Even if cancer leaves no permanent physical changes, a person may still feel different about their body after cancer treatment. There is the tendency to see one’s body as weak or vulnerable at a time when their peers are in good health. However, many young adults describe positive changes in their body image as a result of living with cancer. You may gain a greater appreciation of the body’s resilience. Or, you may discover that issues of weight or body shape matter less than they did before. You many see your scars as signs of courage and survival. Moreover, you may be newly inspired to make healthy lifestyle changes,” stated ASCO.

While a privileged few in Nigeria can afford to travel abroad for treatment, majority have to make do with the inadequate facilities. A country like Nigeria according to global standards is expected to have 145 radiotherapy machines, but it only has 8, and out of this, only 3 are known to be functional. The situation is Nigeria is made worse owing to the poor state of health facilities, poor funding of the health sector, late diagnosis and detection, and high cost of treatment.

Many times, the privileged few who can travel to places like India, Germany, South Africa, UK and US do not return alive.

WHO recommends that 30% if cancer deaths can be prevented by avoiding or modifying key risk factors such as being overweight, unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, alcohol use, sexually transmitted HPV-infections, infection by HBV (Hepatitis virus), ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.