A new report by Lancet, a medical journal, has revealed that about 800,000 women die of breast and cervical cancers yearly and that 90 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries, including Nigeria. The report also said that majority of breast and cervical deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. While most cancers are dangerous, the good news, according to the report, is that breast and cervical cancers are treatable and preventable.
However, the report also gave highlights of global variation in survival rates for women’s cancers. It equally blamed the increasing breast and cervical cancer deaths on high cost of preventive and treatment measures, such as mammography and radiotherapy. In spite of this, the report said that there are cost-effective and proven interventions that can save thousands of lives per year.
These, the report said, include cervical screening and Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of girls within the age of 12 years and stressed that none of these interventions needs highly trained medical members of staff or specialist centres.
Another worrisome dimension is the prediction that the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer across the world will almost double from 1.7 million last year to 3.2 million in 2030. This alarm should worry our health authorities.
Available records show that 14.1 million adults worldwide were diagnosed with cancer in 2012 while 8. 2 million people died from cancer in the same year. Nigeria records about 100,000 new cancer cases yearly. Currently, Nigeria has about 2 million cancer cases and the common cancer cases in Nigeria include breast and cervical cancer.
There is indication that cancer death figure could double to 13 million by 2030. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer accounts for 13 per cent of all deaths registered globally and 70 per cent of that figure occurs in middle and low-income countries. In Nigeria, about 10,000 cancer deaths are recorded annually.
Medical experts say that 30 per cent of cancer deaths can be prevented by avoiding or modifying key risk factors. These include being overweight, taking unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and harmful use of alcohol and tobacco.
The Federal Government should take the health challenge posed by cancer very seriously by ensuring that all cancer treatment centres have adequate diagnostic and treatment tools. More cancer screening centres should be established in the country so that the disease can be detected early.
Government should sufficiently fund cancer control programmes. It should also put in place functional plans to prevent the disease as well as provide treatment, and care to patients. The States and Local Governments should team up with the Federal Government to curb the cancer scourge in the country.
There is the need for public enlightenment on the various cancers that afflict Nigerians, especially breast and cervical cancer. The public should be informed on the causative factors and preventive measures. They should also know about likely treatment options and facilities where such treatments are available.
Cancer should not be regarded as a death sentence. Those down with the condition should not take it as their fate. They should not lose hope or agonise over the condition because the scourge is preventable and treatable.
Since prevention and detection are vital in keeping the cancer menace at bay, Nigerians should take heed of all the preventive measures and avoid the risk factors that can lead to cancer. They should go for cancer screening at least once a year. Let all general hospitals in the country have cancer screening equipment and diagnostic tools. The tests should be accessible and affordable. Perhaps, this is one of the best ways to lessen the burden of the disease in the country.