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Cancer kills over 72,000 Nigerians every year, health activists lament

Photo credit: Reuters

More than 72,000 people die of cancer in Nigeria and 102,000 cases of cancer are recorded in the country every year, according to health activists.

This was made known during a multi-sporting event (jogging, cycling, skating and a walk) organised in Abuja by civil society groups to mark the 2018 World Cancer Day.

“Most of these deaths are preventable, but this is happening because we don’t have sufficient medical infrastructure in Nigeria and the quality of cancer treatment and care is also poor, said Runcie Chidebe, Executive Director of Project PinkBlue, a non-governmental organisation working to eradicate or at least minimise incidents of cancer in Nigeria.

“The World Cancer Day is commemorated all over the world to discuss what has been achieved in cancer care and what still needs to be done.

“So today we are bringing many cancer survivors to let everyone know that you don’t have to wait till you’re down before going to the hospital. We need to ensure that we screen ourselves. We need to ensure that we make screening part of our life style, so we can really save more lives from cancer.”

Also speaking at the event, Adenike Oyetunde, a lawyer and cancer survivor, said government needs to vote more funds into cancer researches and also not leave cancer patients to their fate.

“For 12 years now I have lived cancer-free, though I lost my right leg. I just believe that we need to have a lot more events like this to put out the word about cancer and the need for us to fund cancer research, most importantly,” she said.

“It gives a sense of belonging to people who have been diagnosed with cancer, people who are still suffering the battle of funding their cancer treatment.

“The fact that a lot of us are out here, survivors, family and friends, it can also make the government understand that though we want them to provide free treatment for cancer, they can start by subsidising the treatment and ensuring that persons like me, who lost limbs, can get better environment, building structures and making it an inclusive and adaptive environment for every single person.”

The ‘Walk Against Cancer’ exercise, was also attended by Zainab Bagudu, a consultant pediatrician, cancer advocate and wife of Abubakar Bagudu, Governor of Kebbi State.

She noted that the campaign against cancer in Nigeria has so far yielded several positive results, although more needs to be done in terms of government support.

Bagudu explained that walk against cancer was to let the public know how living a healthy life helps to reduce the risk of cancer.

“By healthy lifestyle we mean the walk, the exercise, the kind of food you eat and of course things like avoiding alcohol and smoking.

“When you see a group of people moving about in the morning together, the first thing you will ask is ‘what are they up to?’ And for people who have never heard about cancer or the relationship with exercise and lifestyle, it’s an eyeopener.

“There’s been a lot of support, we are grateful for it but it is never enough. Cancer is a very poorly understood disease process; it’s also very expensive, so all the support that we can get is welcome. We are a developing country with very weak healthcare system and limited resources, so all these things make it a big fight to really target cancer as we should.

“And then, of course, the poor awareness, people don’t know about cancer, so it’s not detected early enough, which makes the treatment even more complicated and expensive. So we hope that by creating awareness, particularly in areas where we have very low education, if we can get them to see that this cancer is not some spiritual disease, it’s not something that is caused by witches and wizards, it’s a disease process and if you go to hospital in time, you will stand a fighting chance.”

World Cancer Day is commemorated on every February 4. It aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, as well as pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.

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