Cancer Responsible for 72,000 Deaths in Nigeria Annually, WBFA Report Shows

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•There are estimated 102,000 new cases yearly

By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) has released its ground-breaking ‘Rapid Assessment of the Prevention and Control of Cancer in Nigeria’ report.

The first independent national research on cancer provision reveals that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases annually.

This was disclosed in a statement by the Head of Media and Communications, WBFA, Ms. Veronica Abang, saying the report also presents recommendations to urgently transform cancer treatment in Nigeria

According to Abang, the study, led by the WBFA with support from an Amref Health Africa research grant and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, comes on the heels of the launch of Nigeria’s Cancer Control Plan (NCCP) by the Federal Government earlier this month.

She stated that the WBFA, launching the report in Abuja last week, has provided a critical assessment of the needs and capacity of actors and stakeholders in the Nigerian health system to prevent and control cancers, while determining the specific gaps for cancer prevention and control.

The Media Aide to the Founder-President of the WBFA, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, said “the findings highlight the challenge facing the battle against cancer in Nigeria, which has a severe shortage of health personnel for cancer care; a dearth of specialists in particular in rural communities; and a lack a well-coordinated chain of supply of drugs and the requisite infrastructure”.

She said he rate of 80 per cent of patients who are at a stage of advanced disease at time of presentation leaves little hope for many, especially given the lack of functional radiotherapy machines and other tools for diagnosis and treatment.

Speaking at the launch of the rapid assessment report, Mrs. Saraki said the report provides all stakeholders with evidence for efficient frontline actions to prevent, detect, and treat cancer, across Nigeria.

According to the wife of the Senate President, it will allow stakeholders to harness our wealth of knowledge to key into the recently announced government policy for prompt actions across the nation.

She said: “We can also teach our people, and intensify citizen engagement in reducing high-risk behaviours, to be best positioned to detect cancers at an early stage when they are most successful and cost-effective to treat.”

“I thank our partners, Amref, and everyone who has made this comprehensively robust research report possible, particularly our Report Research Principal Investigator, Oncologists Dr/ Bolaji Ayandipo, Dr. Akin Orunmuyi, University College Hospital Ibadan, Dr. Segun Biyi-Olutunde, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Dr. Aliyu Malami, Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Dr. Amaka Lasebikan, Dr Lola Salako, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, our collaborating colleagues in primary, secondary and tertiary medical facilities across Nigeria, and the Wellbeing Foundation Africa Country Director Dr Luther King-Fasehun.”

Mrs. Saraki who was recently named by Devex as a Global UHC Champion; Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and Special Adviser to the Independent Advisory Group (IAG) of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), assure commitment to the National Cancer Control Plan.

She is also Chair of Nigeria’s Primary Health Care Revitalisation Support Group, which is co-chaired by House of Representatives members Hon. Chike Okafor and Hon. Mohammed Usman.

Receiving the report on behalf of the Federal Government, the Minister of State for Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire noted that the research report’s findings and stakeholders meeting aligns with the government’s plans to strengthen the training of cancer-related healthworkers, improve infrastructure and service delivery for cancer prevention, treatment and palliative care.

“We welcome the WBFA-Amref inter-sectoral collaboration, alongside its partnerships with local and global stakeholders in order to improve awareness and information on preventive practices, encouraging early diagnosis and management of all cancers,” Ehanire said.

The Research took place in 12 focal states, comprised of 6 geo-political zones, at the following tertiary centres: University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital; National Hospital, Abuja; Nnamdi Azikwe Teaching Hospital, Anambra; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital; University of Benin Teaching Hospital; Gombe Federal Medical Center; University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital; Lagos University Teaching Hospital; University College Hospital, Ibadan; Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna; and Uthman Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital.