Race to Save Life

01 Apr 2013

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Oduoza (2nd right) and other staff during the opening of the UBA Foundation Mini-Marathon for Prostate Cancer Awareness in Lagos

Charles Ajunwa writes on the recent mini-marathon in Lagos organised by the United Bank for Africa Foundation to raise awareness on prostate cancer

Simply caring. Apart from its primary function of the managing finances of its wide clientele, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), one of Nigeria’s top banks, has through its social responsibility vehicle, UBA Foundation, touched the lives of millions of Nigerians and even beyond.

Although the bank, like any business organisation, believes in making profit, it is not unmindful of the many ills plaguing the business environment where it operates. The bank has used the UBA Foundation to positively affect the society. The Foundation has over the years ploughed its resources into the country’s education, transport, health, and other sectors to try to improve lives.

In keeping with its yearly tradition of reaching out to the public, the UBA Foundation on March 23 organised a mini-marathon in Lagos to raise awareness on prostate cancer, which experts say is common in males above the age of 40. The exercise took place simultaneously in Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Ibadan, Kano, Maidugiri and Uyo.

As early as 6am that Saturday, participants cuttings across both sexes who volunteered to be part of the five-kilometre mini-marathon, started arriving at the UBA Car Park, Marina, the take-off point for the race. Some UBA staff were also on hand to receive and register the athletes who came out in their hundreds to be part of the cancer awareness project put together by UBA Foundation. Handouts like T-Shirts with the inscription “Mini-Marathon for Prostate Cancer Awareness,” and number tags, were given to all the athletes who participated in the min-marathon.

The five-kilometre race started from Marina, the headquarters of UBA, through Agbongbon, Eko Bridge, Ijora Cause Way, to Funso Williams Way and terminated at the National Stadium, Surulere. The organisers of the mini-marathon to raise awareness on prostate cancer also set aside special prizes for athletes that came first, second and third. They went home with N500,000, 300,000 and 200,000, respectively. Consolation prizes of N20, 000 each were set aside for the first five female athletes and first five male athletes that braced the rope at the National Stadium.

As part of activities to raise awareness on prostate cancer, the organisers, apart from putting together a novelty match between the UBA Lions and the Glaxo team, also arranged a free prostate cancer screening test for men from age 40 and above.

UBA’s Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Phillips Oduoza, who arrived the registration ground dressed in red sports wears and a red face cap, could not hide his satisfaction with the crowd that turned out for the race. 

Oduoza, who looked athletic in his wears, while opening the race, disclosed that the bank, through UBA Foundation, was encouraged to propagate the crusade against prostate cancer by the growing incidence of the ailment among young people. He said despite the deadly nature of prostate cancer, it could be cured when detected and treated at its early stage.

The UBA managing director said, “Every quarter we do what we call jogging to bond and the whole idea is to bring staff at various levels together; it’s more like a socialisation kind of thing. It’s one where we have to exercise, where we play football and people, regardless of their positions, all of us just interact at that level.

“Now this particular event, we decided to dedicate it to raising awareness on prostate cancer. If you know in Nigeria, this is an illness that is increasingly becoming an issue, and the thing about it is that if you are able to detect it early enough you will be able to deal with it. But when you don’t detect it early enough and it becomes advanced then you have complications and it becomes a big issue. So, we feel we should use this particular occasion to create awareness on prostate cancer for the Nigerian citizenry and that is exactly what we are trying to do today.

“What we are doing through UBA Foundation, is basically corporate social responsibility and we deal with issues that have to do with the environment; keeping the environment clean. We deal with the issues of education and I’m sure you must have heard about ‘Read Africa’ and all the other education-related things like scholarship and so on. Basically, we focus on corporate social responsibility issues.

“Prostate cancer is a difficult illness to handle, therefore, we want to raise awareness to Nigeria and elsewhere in various African countries. The prizes that you are going to win are very wonderful prizes and it seems to me that so many people are going to go home with wonderful prizes.”

On whether the bank was concentrating on prostate cancer, Oduoza explained, “We have looked at so many other areas, I think we have looked at blindness and if I recall correctly, sometime last year, we looked at prostate cancer and this is not the first time we are doing that. The last time we did it, we were able to create a lot of awareness and we believe we need to expand that to let many more people know about it.

“A lot of people have benefitted from this and when we did it the last time, the response was very significant, many people came up and carried out the test. So, a lot of people have benefitted from it and the whole idea is to create awareness because prostate cancer is an illness that can easily be handled once it’s detected early enough.”

One of the consultants who carried out the free prostate cancer screening test at the National Stadium, Dr. Olasonde Eletu, a staff of Evon Medical Centre, said, “Prostate cancer is a second leading cancer in men generally all over the world. It usually starts as a slow growing cell in the prostate gland which is just a gland underneath the bladder. It’s a cancer that starts after the age of 40 and that is why men above the age of 40 are usually advised to get a cancer screening test done. Most times the symptoms are very slow in manifesting because the cells themselves grow slowly so you see men who are over 80 who die and sometimes at autopsy you realise that they have prostate cancer. Since we know that it’s the second leading cause of death, we always advise men above 40 to get a screening test done.

“The symptoms are usually those of finding it difficult to pass urine; you may start urinating and the urine stops and after a while it starts again and the person wakes up so many times in the night to pass urine. Anybody who experiences that is advised to go for prostate cancer test. It’s slow growing, sometimes they have back pain because the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the organ particularly the bones around the waist. So sometimes they complain of that and because of the pressure effect you see men with swollen legs and when you do normal examination you realise that they may have prostate cancer.

“Now part of the medical examination that most men do usually every year is to have the rectal exam in which case a finger is inserted inside the rectum to feel the prostate gland. When you do that you can feel the texture of the gland if the gland is very hard or very painful then you may need to do further screening. But if the texture is okay and normal and the blood test is done and it’s also normal then you just advise the patient on what to do.

“Black men are known to be more at risk in developing prostate cancer than the Caucasians. Also if there has been a family history; if in a family a father has had the history of a prostate cancer then the men from that man should also be aware and they should get regular screening done because the earlier the cancer cells are picked up the better the chances of survival and treatments. Now if it’s just a small cancer cell that is found or in the prostate gland that area can be removed and then you may not need further treatment with follow up but if there are other methods of treatment apart from surgery, you could do radio therapy and there are hormonal remedies that can also be given to treat.”

When asked to give advice on prostate cancer, Eletu said, “You know most of us as men and it’s not just peculiar to Nigeria all over the world, men feel because we are men, we are macho, we don’t have any symptoms and there is no need for us to go and do any test. Unlike the women who take their health more seriously than us.

So the advice will be at least once a year get your doctor to examine you, little things that are picked up early can prolong one’s life. So that is the general advice and that is why it gladdens me to be seeing you do the prostate cancer test. This is the second year and I am sure it’s something that is being done regularly and it’s not only being done here.  I am aware it’s also being done in Uyo, Port Harcourt, Abuja and other places, just as part of creating awareness. I think the government and other organisations should support this kind of effort in promoting cancer awareness and not just cancer awareness, health awareness generally among men because it’s men who usually don’t take care of their health.

“The cost is not the issue because the test itself if you go to a government hospital it’s not more than N3, 000 and even in private organisations it’s not more than N5,000. What is N5,000 in a year for a man to live 10 years longer, so cost is not the major issue. Evon Medical Centre is in good partnership with UBA and that is why yearly we support this effort and any time we are called upon we are there to render the services.”

Eletu, who was all smiles throughout the free screening test, said he felt glad to help humanity. He said during last year’s exercise, of the about 60 men tested for prostate cancer only two were advised to go for further tests.

The doctor said the results of the tests were sent to participants via SMS alerts, stating the participant’s name, age and the result. “If the result is higher than four, we then advise that you should go and see your private doctor for further evaluation. If you need to do any further thing they will advise you accordingly,” he said.

Speaking at the National Stadium, the UBA Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, advised men aged 40 and above not to be afraid of getting tested for prostate cancer. He announced a special prize for the eight-year-old girl, Anthonia Ezekiel, who despite her age completed the marathon, far ahead of many others. “In UBA, we believe in catching them young and developing talents from the cradle.  The CSR arm of United Bank of Africa, we believe in doing good and living good and hence you see us in this kind of event. We will do more going forward and we need you at all times,” Uzoka said.

Mr. Adatanlen Moses, who won the first prize, received N500,000.00. The 1st runner–up, Mohammed Hassan, got N300,000.00 and the second runner-up, Alli Labbeb, went home with N200,000.00. Each of the 10 others went home with a UBA Prepaid Card, loaded with N20,000.00.

The event followed the ‘Walk, Cycle and Jog for Prostate Cancer’ programme organised by the Foundation in 2011 and ‘Play Soccer for Prostate Cancer’ held in 2012, when the Foundation brought out ex-Nigerian international soccer stars to play soccer in an effort to create awareness on prostate cancer.

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