By BILKIS OGUNNUBI
Recently, the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Mudasiru Obasa, sponsored a bill for the establishment of a Cancer Institute in the State. This action was guided by the alarming increase in cases of cancer in the country.
To a layman, cancer is notorious because it is a terminal disease which eventually terminates the live of anyone afflicted with it. To medical professionals, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. It can affect nearby parts of the body and more distant parts through the lymphatic system or the blood stream. There are over 200 different types of cancer that affect humans.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IAPC), as at 2008, 7.6 million people had died globally from cancer. Indeed, it has become a major source of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In addition, the global burden of cancer is set to double by 2020 and almost triple by 2030 when one out of every two persons is expected to be diagnosed of cancer in their lifetime.
Denmark has the highest incidence of cancer in the world with 338 people per 100,000 being diagnosed in 2012. In Nigeria, breast and cervical cancers are the commonest ones diagnosed in women, while prostate cancer remains the often diagnosed for men. And like other developing countries, cancer remains a public health challenge in Nigeria where approximately 10,000 people die and 250,000 new cases are reported annually.
The incidence of the ailment, particularly breast cancer in Nigeria is increasing just like in other developing countries and those advanced countries that used to have low incidence. Several factors are responsible for this increasing incidence, but the most important one is the empowerment of women which is increasing their ability to make independent decisions about their health care, such as the ability to choose when to start having children and the number to have and westernization of diet.
But this disease that can affect male and female of all ages does not just appear out of nowhere, it has definite causes that can be corrected if the body has enough time, and if actions are taken to change the body’s internal environment to one that creates health while at the same time attacking cancerous cells and tumour by exploiting their weaknesses.
Essentially, cancers occur as a result of excessive amount of toxins and pollutants people are exposed to, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity, high stress lifestyles that zap the immune system, poor quality junk food that are full of pesticides, irradiated and genetically modified. Other causes include electro-magnetic lights and everything we were not exposed to 200 years ago. Findings have shown that tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer, causing about 70%vof global lung cancer (the worlds most commonest) deaths and 20% of global cancer deaths. All the aforementioned weaken the immune system and change the body’s internal environment to one that promotes cancer growth.
While cancer can affect people of all ages, and a few types of cancer are more common in children, the risk of developing cancer generally increases with age. This is true in metropolitan areas of developing world as populations age and increasingly feel the impact of exposure to major risk factors as mentioned above.
Generally, initial swelling in cancer is painless although localized pain may occur in advanced cancer. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, unexplained anaemia, fever of unknown origin. In diagnosing cancer, a biopsy i.e. taking a specimen of the lump or swelling for examination is considered essential for the proper identification of the disease. Occasionally, a metastatic lump or pathological lymph node is found (in the neck) for which primary tumour cannot be found.
Chemotherapy (drugs) and radiotherapy are used as a first line radical therapy in a number of malignancies where disease is clearly incurable aiming at improving the quality of and prolonging life. Surgeries are used to remove tumours entirely in situations where there are some degrees of certainties that the tumors can in fact be removed
Cancer is a curable disease that should not be allowed to terminate life, but it should be detected on time. This is where the establishment of a Cancer Institute as contained in the bill sponsored by the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly is important. The Institute is expected to provide affordable and subsidized medical care for cancer patients; carry out research in other terminal diseases but with special emphasis on cancer related ones; carry out extensive diagnosis; provide current, advanced and latest technological diagnostic instruments; gather and provide accurate data of terminally ill patients in Lagos; provide guidelines for all palliative care providers; and ensure that curative and palliative medical care are vigorously provided in hospitals in the state.In addition, the bill also seeks for the establishment of a terminal illness centre in all the 57 councils of the state while there will be a cancer advisory council to be chaired by the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
It would be recalled that prominent Nigerians such as late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi lost their lives due to cancer-related ailments that were not promptly and properly diagnosed. Since early detection is the antidote to curing the disease, the establishment of Cancer Institute in Lagos State, as being proposed, will help, in no small way, to prevent needless loss of lives as a result of cancer in the country.
It is, however, advised that attention is equally shifted towards exploring alternative means of tackling the disease. Herbal remedies should be exploited in this regard. Cancer patients do not have to avoid chemotherapy or radiotherapy to benefit from natural products and supplements.
Nutritional supplements are quite useful when used in conjunction with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. The supplements work to support the body so that radiation and chemotherapy will actually work better resulting in stronger immune system which will keep cancer from developing again.
On a final note, leading a sedentary life, eating unhealthy foods and exposure to toxins in form of environmental pollution should be avoided. In essence, when the right actions are taken, even aggressive, tough cancer can be defeated.
Ogunnubi writes from Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.