The Nigerian Stock Exchange is helping to raise awareness about cancer, one of Nigeria’s deadliest killers, writes Solomon Elusoji
In 2018, Nigeria recorded an estimated 116,000 new cases of cancer and 41,000 cancer-related deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN health agency noted that the key drivers were exposure to known cancer risk factors such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diets, alcohol use and environmental pollution.
“Let us inform the youth that tobacco use is catastrophic, fast food and diet increases body weight and this causes obesity which if not checked can lead to cancer,” a Nigerian WHO official, Clement Peter, said last February.
Peter also noted that “Cancer is one of the non-communicable diseases which is killing many people globally. If the majority of the drivers are addressed, it would not only address cancer but also diabetes, hypertension, chronic heart problems and also reduce the cost of treatment of most of these diseases which are on the high side.
To address cancer, however, the challenge of late and poor diagnosis and lack of medical cover must be addressed.
“Though significant progress has been made in diagnostics and treatment of cancers in high-income countries, sadly, most cancer patients in Africa are diagnosed at a late stage and the prognosis for a positive outcome is lessened, even in cases where treatment is available and affordable.
“Only 26 per cent of low-income countries around the world reported having public sector pathology services, and only 30 per cent of these countries had cancer treatment services. However, 90 per cent of high-income countries can offer such services.”
Since 2014, the Nigerian Stock Exchange has organised the NSE Corporate Challenge, a one-day competitive and fun-filled five kilometers walk, jog and run event, designed to create awareness on the early detection of cancer and raise funds to support the fight against the dreadful disease in Nigeria.
This year, the NSE brought together over 650 runners from over 60 companies to “e-Race Cancer” at the 6th edition Challenge despite heavy rains at the Muri-Okunola Park in Lagos.
The 2019 NSE Corporate Challenge which featured aerobics dance, games, music, entertainment, and free cancer screening, saw Austin Ani of Stanbic IBTC emerge the overall winner with a completion time of 19.05 minutes, the same feat he achieved in the 2018 edition. Paul Alabi of Aluko & Oyebode, who was the first runner up in 2018, and Aliyu Lukman of Fidelity Bank Plc were in the second and third positions, finishing the race in 19.27 minutes and 19.50 minutes, respectively.
Adaobi Anikwe of The NSE, with a completion time of 24.58 minutes, emerged the Fastest Female runner, while Rene Gabriel of Nigerian Breweries Plc emerged the winner of the Senior Citizen category for runners aged 50 and above, with a race time of 22.30 minutes, same feat he achieved in the 2016 edition.
The runners were joined by top business leaders and outstanding race ambassadors such as Kate Henshaw, Waje, Omololu Shomuyiwa, Tobi Bakare, and DJ Neptune, to mention a few.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Oscar Onyema, OON, Chief Executive Officer, NSE, noted that, “Cancer-related deaths in Nigeria are set to rise if urgent actions are not taken to raise awareness about early detection of the disease and to develop practical strategies to address the increasing burden. Such is the idea that inspired the NSE Corporate Challenge in 2014. In its 6th year, the NSE Corporate Challenge has adopted exercise as a vehicle to drive its cancer awareness initiative and further stress the need for regular exercise and overall healthy living as ways to reduce the risk of cancer.”
“It is heart-warming to see hundreds of people here today who believe in our journey to a cancer-free society and who do not care about the weather in fighting cancer. A lot of people could have rolled over this morning and gone back to bed with the pouring rain, but we all came out because of our passion to eradicate cancer in Nigeria.
“Hours in the rain is nothing compared to people going through chemotherapy. We believe that our message about cancer will create a ripple effect that provokes joint actions toward erasing cancer in Nigeria and have a far-reaching positive impact on the populace especially the less privileged”, added Onyema.
The NSE CEO also lauded the listed companies, non-listed companies, stockbroking community, other corporate organisations, government agencies as well as notable Nigerians and celebrities for their continuous support for the NSE Corporate Challenge since inception.
Introducing Cancer Care
In partnership with Sebeccly Cancer Care, the NSE also provided onsite free breast and cervical cancer screening, and prostate cancer screening for female and male participants respectively at the challenge this year. The cancer screening and treatment came in the form of colposcopy, cryotherapy and histology for participants with identified irregularities.
“Nigeria records annual incidence of 100,000 new cancer cases and most of the cancer patients present with advanced stage of the disease due to persistent lack of awareness and screening services, prohibitive cost of treatment and fear,” Executive Director, Sebeccly Cancer Care, Dr Omolara Salako.
“Over a hundred men and women were screened for prostate, breast and cervical cancer through our comprehensive onsite cancer screening and treatment program (TimeToScreen) which leverages on data and research while the oncopadi app was deployed as a follow up tool for individuals with screening abnormalities,” added Dr. Salako.
Also speaking at the event, Divisional Head, Shared Services at the NSE, Mr. Bola Adeeko, said “for the first time, we provided free cancer screening to over 110 participants which we plan to continue to provide throughout the year, in partnership with technical partners.”
The event received support from in the form of sponsorship and participation from corporate organisations including Stanbic IBTC, Dangote, Beta Glass, Transcorp, FCMB, Fidelity Bank, UBA, SACHO, AIICO Insurance, FBN Holdings, IHS Towers, Seplat, CSCS and Sterling Bank who were joined by outstanding race ambassadors such as Kate Henshaw, Waje, Omololu Shomuyiwa, Tobi Bakare, and DJ Neptune, to mention a few.