Nigeria doesn’t have up to 10 pediatric oncologists to cover the tens of thousands of children suffering from cancer in the country, the Founder, The Dorcas Cancer Foundation (TDCF), Dr. Adedayo Joseph, has said.
She said apart from other factors contributing to the increment of childhood cancer, the inadequate number of pediatric oncologists has indirectly led to the increased number of children dying from the dreaded disease.
Stating this during an interactive session to commemorate this year’s World Cancer Day held recently in Lagos, he said only pediatric oncologists have the right expertise to treat childhood cancer and not general doctors.
“On prevention, I believe first step is early detection. Cancer in children is not common. The second step is getting the right expert to attend to them. For the fact that I’m an oncologist doesn’t mean I can treat children with cancer, we need a pediatric oncologist to look after them. Those are specialists in children cancer.
“Although I have the knowledge but not better than the pediatric oncologists who does it every day. We need the children to be treated by specialists. There are so many children out there living with cancer and are being looked after by general doctors who does not specialise in childhood cancer,” she said.
Speaking on other factors, Joseph highlighted; late detection, lack of funds, absence of cancer hospital for children and expensive cancer treatment as factors increasing the burden.
Emphasising on expensive treatment of cancer, she advocated for policies directed at assistance for children living with cancers whose parent cannot afford treatment.
She said: “The most important thing is awareness. community awareness and healthcare workers awareness. We need them to pay more attention to children. There is need to be policies when it comes to cancer because treatment of cancer is very expensive but a child doesn’t have to die because their parents can’t afford the treatment, so there have to be some kind of policies on health insurance scheme set up that supports childhood cancer. In my opinion, there should be policy directed assistance,” she said.
On accessing quality healthcare and early detection of cancer, the Director, Health Educators, Lagos State, Mrs. Olubunmi Ilawole, noted that the Lagos State health insurance scheme kicking off soon will screen for early detection of cancer at the primary healthcare level, improving quality health services in the state.