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NEW IMPETUS FOR CANCER TREATMENT

By NBF News
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The selection of 10 Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria as centres for cancer treatment is a bold response to the rising cases of the scourge in the country. The facilities, courtesy of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organ of the United Nations (UN), are for the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Beneficiaries of the equipment, expected to be fully installed in 2015, are the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, and University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH). Others are Uthman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), Sokoto, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Gombe and National Hospital Abuja (NHA).

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, said that government's partnership with the IAEA was part of the efforts to improve cancer awareness and treatment in Nigeria. In addition to the designated Teaching Hospitals, the Health Minister said that the Federal government has successfully established three comprehensive screening centres in Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, Port Harcourt in Rivers State and Gusau in Zanfara State. All of these, no doubt, are conventional development interventions to drastically reduce the incidence of cancer.

We welcome the installation of these cancer facilities in the selected Teaching Hospitals. They are timely, as the risk of the disease is generally increasing with age and lifestyle, especially in developing countries such as Nigeria. For instance, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report in 2007 showed that cancer caused about 13 percent of human deaths worldwide. In Nigeria, different types of cancers, including breast cancer, lung, skin, colon, liver and prostate cancers are currently ravaging millions of people, among them, children.

Cancer, known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a broad group of various diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In virtually all cancer cases, cells do divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors. They spread through the lymphatic system or blood system. Studies have proved that the prevalence of cancer cases in Nigeria today is largely as a result of lack of equipment and personnel to detect the disease early enough.

It is instructive to note that for years, cancer treatment centres that can help patients either through surgery, radiation chemotherapy and biologic therapies have been scarce. Therefore, these facilities in the chosen teaching hospital should be handled with professional care. The centres require oncologists and clinicians who should develop a personalized treatment plan tailored towards specific patient needs.

These facilities could not have come at a better time, considering the fact that what causes cancer is becoming increasingly complex, even though tobacco use, certain infections, lack of physical activity, poor diet, obesity and environmental pollutants are known causative factors. But a well-equipped hospital with the necessary cancer facilities can detect the symptoms easily through screening, tests or medical imaging before they cause damage to the body.

These facilities, we hope, are made to suit our peculiar environment. This is vital because between 90 and 95 percent of cancer cases have been proved to be as a result of environmental factors. However, since multiple factors could also cause cancer in a particular individual, it has become necessary that the Ministry of Health at all tiers of government should invest more on enlightenment campaigns to create the awareness on the causes, symptoms, and treatments available.

The awareness should include, but not restricted to, diet and exercise. Of course, diets that are low in vegetable, fruits and whole grain, and high processed or red meats and foods with high salt are linked with a number of cancer cases. Overall, nothing should be left to chance in making this awareness get to the grass roots.

We commend the IAEA for their support. It is now incumbent on the government and the benefiting teaching hospitals to work together for the complete installation of the equipment in three years' time. The ultimate success of these intervention measures will be when we begin to see an appreciable decline in cancer cases in Nigeria.