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Promoting Good Governance.

‘It costs about N16m to treat breast cancer in Nigeria’

Advocates more funds to avert cancer-related death in Nigeria

PROJECT Pink Blue— A Nigeria cancer-fighting non-governmental organisation has called on the federal government to invest more funds in its fight against cancer, saying it cost nearly N16 million to treat breast cancer in Nigeria.

Emeka Nwagboso, acting Executive Director of the organisation made this assertion during a press briefing at a multi-sporting: cycling, skating, jogging and walking event on Saturday to commemorate the 2019 World Cancer Day.

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 targeted to raise awareness on cancer: its prevention, treatment, and reduce death caused by the disease.

With its theme; “I am and I will”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for inclusive measures in the fight cancer thereby empowering every individual to take action to save the future.

According to WHO, 18.1 million people around the world had cancer, and 9.6 million died from the disease as of 2018, and the figure would double by 2040 with a great increase in Low-Medium-Income Countries (LMIC) where more than two-thirds of the world’s cancers will occur, including Nigeria,

Contributing to the event, Nwagboso attributed the issue of funding in treating and managing cancer to the death rate in the country whereby, the financial demands for cancer management leads to accepting death as the last resort.

The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer identified over 18 million new cases of cancer and over 9 million cancer-related death for both sex globally in 2018, with Africa, ranking the 2nd highest in incidences, mortality and five years prevalence. Asia ranks the highest.

At the event, Nwagboso expressed gratitude over the recent inclusion of cancer surgery in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), urging the federal government for an overhaul of the health sector to help patients diagnosed with cancer, get adequate treatments, which in turn generates revenue for the country.

“A whole lot Nigerians leave Nigeria, go to other countries, pay heavily, stay in their hotels go for tourism in the country because they are also told that its part of the psychology of cancer in trying to treat cancer. So we can also use this to make more money for ourselves here back in Nigeria,” he said.

According to the Budget Office of the Federation, the federal government, for the past five years (2016-2019) had allocated over N2.2 billion to combat cancer disease in Nigeria.

In 2016, the federal government had allocated over N199 million; in 2017 – N623 million; in 2018 – N1.14 billion; in 2019 – N325 million respectively to combat cancer. There was no reported data for 2020.

Obviously, the federal government had allocated more in 2018, yet a recent report by the WHO said Nigeria had witnessed a total of 115, 950 new cases of cancer; 70, 327 total number of death and 211, 052 number of prevalent cases in 2018.

In fact, the Nigeria National Cancer Control Plan Cancer (NCCP) 2018-2022 stated that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases of cancer recorded annually.

Far left: Kelvin Brett, GM, Transcorp Hilton; Mid-left: Okaima Ohaizua, ED Transcorp Hilton; Middle: Emeka Nwagboso, Ac. Exe. Dir. Project Pink Blue; Right: Ossai N. Ossai, member, house of Representative -photo credit: Damilola Ojetunde, The ICIR

However, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, a member, House of Representative during the event, stressed on the need for cancer registry centres in the country­­— a proposed bill aimed at keeping track of cancer data.

According to him, such record would help the government, as well as international donors, identify victims of cancer, funds to be released, aid research purposes and help keep track on the progress or regress of cancer elimination.

He noted that with such a legal framework, “researchers are able to keep a tab of the various kinds of cancer ravaging the country and also create policies for its eradication”.

Yet, records by the federal budget had shown that from 2016 until 2019, the federal government had allocated about N404 million on cancer centres, its infrastructure and its completion, with 2016 having the highest allocation of about N177 million.

Between 2016- 2017, more than N6 million was allocated for cancer registration alone while in 2018-2019, about N75 million was also allocated for cancer registration alongside other cancer training programmes infused into the funds.

This connotes that by the establishment of cancers centres, data of the diagnosed individuals can be recorded simultaneously. However, Ossai noted that the proposed bill will exclusively keep track of cancer data in the country.

Nevertheless, the WHO had said Breast and cervical cancers were recorded as the two major types of cancer affecting women in Nigeria, while prostate cancer is the leading type of cancer among men but recent reports revealed lung cancer, as the highest in 2018 with 11.6 per cent of all cases.

WHO said cancer will develop in, one in five people before they reach the age of 75, as it is already responsible for one in six deaths globally.

It noted that the number of new cases and deaths will continue to rise because of increasing life expectancy and epidemiological and demographic transitions.

Notwithstanding, Project Pink Blue in the collaboration with Transcorp Hilton Hotel has continued to create awareness against cancer in Nigeria since the past five years.

Speaking at the event on Saturday, the Executive Director of the hotel, Okaima Ohizua, said having lost both father and sister to prostate and breast cancer respectively, early detection is the greatest prevention to full flown cancer.

She also called on the federal government to intensify effort to reduce the sufferings of people battling with cancer in Nigeria.

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