Struggling with high cancer management cost

In Nigeria, late presentation of cancers remain a huge burden on affected persons, but medical experts recommend lifestyle changes, early detection, prompt medical attention as some of the factors to tackle the menace. APPOLONI A ADEYEMI reports.

Against the background of rising cancers in Nigeria and the challenge of meeting exorbitant treatment cost, the Founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN) and First Lady of Ondo State, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu has identified crowd-funding as an alternative source of funding cancer treatment in Nigeria.

Speaking at the workshop organised by BRECAN at Ilara Mokin, Ondo State, Mrs Akeredolu who observed that aside battling with misconceptions that shrouds breast cancer, there is also the issue of funding treatment, thus the need to adopt crowd funding as a short time approach to addressing this ugly trend.

While calling for support to help Ondo State women with breast cancer through the ‘N200 Million Crowd Funding Initiative’, Akeredolu stressed the need for every individual to get involved as government cannot do everything.

“Aside the fact that we battle with misconception about breast cancer, we also battle with our people not having funds for treatment and so, they resort to where they will not spend so much money like the ‘Prayer House’.

“In truth, these women have no other choice if access to care is not made available. We cannot wait for government to do everything. If we are to follow bureaucratic process to get funds that means most of these women will die before the funds come through.

This is just a short time approach to addressing an ugly situation,” she stressed while emphasising the place of advocacy and lobbying so that funds are appropriated for health.

Speaking on the Challenges of Managing Cancer Patients in Nigeria, Dr. Aba Katung, a consultant surgeon, at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo in Ondo State, highlighted late presentation of breast cancer, poor attitude of health workers, non-availability of branded chemotherapeutic drugs in the face of poor resources among others.

According to him, the cost of medical diagnosis, histopathology as well as hormonal receptors, among others is quite expensive, thus the need to adopt public education and promote awareness on risky behaviours.

The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) estimates that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases annually. According to available data, up to 102,000 people are affected by the dreaded disease annually.

Data also shows that breast and cervical cancers are the two most common types of cancer responsible for approximately 50.3 per cent of all cancer cases in Nigeria.

While lauding the efforts of BRECAN over the years in fighting the scourge of breast cancer, Dr. Katung urged government at all levels to increase budgetary allocation to health.

Earlier, facilitators at the break out session in the different forums such as Youth Forum, Survivor Forum, Health Professional Forum, Women Forum and General Forum explored in detail different topics which were followed by question and answer sessions from participants.

Presenting his paper titled ‘What Is Breast Cancer?; Breast Cancer Pathogenesis’, Dr. Olumide Aladesuru, a consultant general surgeon took time to highlight what breast cancer means and the factors that put one at risk such as gender, age, race, hereditary, poor diet, smoking, alcoholism among others.

While tracing the clinical features of a painless lump on the breast as a ticking bomb, Dr. Aladesuru x-rayed treatment option such as breast reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy which involves the use of Tamoxifen, stressing that breast cancer is indeed treatable when detected on time.

Dr. Aladesuru also explored the clinical options of Risk Reduction Modalities which includes among others surgical option as he stressed that screening culture should be encouraged. On his part, Dr. Akinjide Ogundokun, a family Physician while exploring the topic:

‘Early Detection Of Breast Cancer And Patient Navigation,’ traced the different stages of breast development, noting that in Nigeria, the peak age of breast cancer is about 42.6 years which is 12 per cent less than 30 years of age.

According to him, majority of patients delay presenting at the hospital because of ignorance, fear of surgery and at times because they seek alternative herbal therapies, thus complicating the whole process. Another Family Physician, Dr. Olaniyi Johnson who spoke on ‘Breast Cancer Prevention:

Lifestyle Approach’ emphasised that people are increasingly living at risk because of their lifestyle. Dr. Olaniyi also highlighted the dangers of certain lifestyles that puts one at risk of cancer which include smoking, alcoholism while stressing that it is good to maintain healthy body weight, eat right and be involved in physical activity in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Other facilitators at the programme include Dr. Margaret Isabella who explored the need for a national health policy, Jennifer Dents, Dr. Niyonzima (Uganda Cancer Care), among others. On his part, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said “We have developed a new National Cancer Control Plan 2018 to 2022, which is the product of extensive inter-sectoral collaboration involving government, academia, bilateral and multilateral organisation and civil society.

The plan provides a clear road map as to how the FMOH envisions cancer controls efforts for the country to be within the next five years and beyond.

He said, “Beyond the cancer patients and their families, this plan will serve as launch pad to reduce the incidence and prevalence of cancer in Nigeria.

” Adewole said, “The government has commenced a process of reducing the cost of cancer drugs by 50 per cent in our hospitals by direct pooled procurement to ensure availability of quality and cost effective chemotherapeutic agents in the country,” adding that these initiatives would make cancer treatment relatively affordable by patients.

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