Cancer patients in Nigeria can now heave a sigh of relief. For them, there is no more medical tourism to Europe, Dubai or India in search of treatment. They can now get succour at the new cancer facility available at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos.
According to experts, in 2020, the number of cancer patients in Nigeria will increase from 24 million to 42 million. Also, in the same year, medical experts have predicted that death rates from cancer in Nigerian males and females might reach 72.7/100,000 and 76/100,000 respectively.
However, the hi-tech cancer treatment centre at LUTH – facilitated by key institutions like Nigerian Sovereign Investment Agency (NSIA), financier of the NLCC; Varian Medical Systems, equipment manufacturer; and Tanit Medical Engineering, equipment supplier – will not only stem the tide of medical tourism, it would also reduce considerably the mortality rate from cancer.
With the replacement of old LINAC device and cobalt unit with two Vital Beam systems, Halcyon device and brachytherapy machine at the NSIA/LUTH facility, Varian organized an oncology summit for stakeholders in the health sector where latest developments in cancer care were introduced as well as possible approaches to effectively deploy quality cancer treatment across the country were discussed and developed. This was followed by a site visit to the LUTH centre the next day.
Chief Executive Officer, Tanit Medical Engineering, Anthony Abou Nader, described the LUTH cancer centre as the first of its kind and largest in West Africa. According to him, the summit was organized to educate stakeholders on the type of solution and technology available for cancer treatment in Nigeria.
“When they go back, they will be able to leverage on the information they have gathered, to innovate and stimulate the potential ecology facilities within their environments,” he said.
Explaining the efficiency of the cancer treatment machines supplied by his company, Nader stated that the machines are built to accommodate any kind of low electricity; therefore they will not be affected by the erratic power supply in the country. “The machines can accommodate any form of low energy. Also, they can take up to 120 patients in less than 48 hours and can last up to 10 years with adequate maintenance measures put in place,” he explained.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every one million population need one accelerator. So, if Nigeria with a population of about 200 million is to adequately address the cancer scourge, there is need for 200 machines. Corroborating this fact was Ansu Dukuray, Varian’s Regional Sales Manager, West and East Africa, who posited that the inability to effectively tackle the cancer malaise in Nigeria was due to insufficient and quality equipment.
“Yes, the problem is due to insufficient machines in all our cancer centers. We need to have the kind of quality machines available in India, United States, Europe and all the big countries people run to for treatment. Before we came on board, most Nigerians diagnosed with cancer did not have opportunities for modern treatment facilities. But in a short period that we came in, we have been able to build the LUTH cancer center. However, we noticed that it’s not enough, so we are building a bigger facility in Victoria Island where people can be treated at a reasonable cost.
“Also, there are other partners we are working with in Kaduna and Enugu, and even some other states, to build capacity so that people won’t have to travel from Kaduna, Kano and all those places to Lagos for treatment. This is how we can make Nigeria cancer free,” he stated.
Speaking further, Dukuray disclosed that Varian has found in Tanit Medical Engineering a critical partner for success. Hear him: “Tanit is our representative here in Nigeria, so we do everything through them. We have engineers that are trained by Tanit to install and also maintain the equipment. Our partnership with Tanit is to achieve success. We don’t just want to come and sell equipment; we also want to succeed with our partners, because we succeed when our partners succeed.”
In his remarks, professor of radiation therapy and oncology at LUTH, Prof. Francis Abayomi Durosinmi-Etti lauded the summit, saying it will enable participants to be better equipped to deal with the rapid spread of cancer.