Rebecca Ejifoma writes on the efforts of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority/Lagos University Teaching Hospital, NSIA-LUTH, Cancer Centre, NLCC, in providing comprehensive treatment, including psychotherapy for cancer patients, while calling on Nigerians and West Africans to its state-of-the-art centre with cutting-edge equipment for early detection to tame cancer scourge
Despite the presence of fully equipped cancer care centre like the NLCC, no one wishes to be diagnosed with any form of cancer – cervical and breast, among others. This is because, over the years, experts have expressed worry at the rate at which the treatable disease is synonymous with death by societal definition.
While the government continues to play its part in supporting and developing a health system for adequate, qualitative and affordable health services to her citizens, health experts have seen a need for more synergy from citizens, NGOs, and multinationals to quell the mortality and morbidity rate.
It is, therefore, in line with its clarion call for aggressive awareness that would detect the 120,000 cancer cases and halt the over 72,000 deaths to cancer annually that the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre (NLCC) held a media briefing and tour of its facility to mark the world cancer week on the theme “Close the Care Gap”, at Idi-Araba Lagos.
Cancer is Preventable, Curable
In his remarks, the Director of NLCC, Dr Lilian Ekpo, dispelled the myth surrounding cancer as a death sentence. “Cancer is not a death sentence once detected early,” she clarified. “We need to emphasise this. For instance, cervical cancer is one of the easiest cancers to treat once detected early. It is preventable, and women are encouraged to take the Human Papilloma Vaccine for prevention.”
Hence, the establishment of NLCC, which she described as a centre of excellence for managing cancer in Nigeria, is to fight cancer as one committed team.” Her team includes highly qualified clinical and radiation oncologists, medical physicists, therapy radiographers, oncology nurses and other specialists.
Reduce Alcohol, Obesity, Diet against Cancer
With more than 40 per cent of cancer-related deaths said to be preventable through routine screening, Ekpo cautioned that most cancers are due to exposure to some lifestyle habits.
She admitted that changing behavioural and dietary risks and some of the modifiable risk factors like alcohol consumption, obesity, diet and nutrition, and physical inactivity can prevent over one-third of cancer cases.
Consequently, the director implored Nigerians to embrace regular screening. She emphasised, “Our resolve is to drive Nigerians to seek to prevent cancer by adopting lifestyles that can prevent its occurrence as seen in the modifiable causes of cancer.
“We will equally like to get our people to go for regular screening to detect cancer early if it occurs and finally getting treatment started early if a person is diagnosed with early stages of cancer.”
Need for Partnership with Citizens, Government, NGOs against Cancer Scourge
Lending his voice at the briefing, the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Council (CMAC) at LUTH, Prof. Wasiu Adeyemo, called for collaboration to wage war against the disease. “The government has done a lot and is doing its part. However, in terms of cancer care, we all have a role to play. We need well-meaning Nigerians to come to our aid in terms of advocacy, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), and multinationals. Cancer scourge needs to be tamed, and like other serious countries are doing in the world, we also need to play our part.”
As a preventive and curative centre, the Head of Medical Physicists at the NLCC, Dr Adeneye Samuel, outlined that medical physicists employ the knowledge of radiation physics to treat various forms of cancer.
He added: “We use the latest techniques such as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) and Volumetric Arc therapy (VMAT). Medical physicists use these advanced techniques to treat different forms of cancer. So, we use these techniques to spare organs at risk.”
According to the medical physicist, the NSIA-LUTH cancer centre also performs quality assurance using the latest machines in their facility. He noted that they use fathom and other ion chambers, very extensive and specialised equipment to ensure the machines are working optimally. “We ensure that the dose prescribed by the radiation oncologist is the same one the patients receive.”
Brachytherapy Suite With 3-Dimension
Knowing that cancer is a disease that requires comprehensive management and treatment, the NSIA-LUTH facility is ahead of the pack as the only centre in the country and West Africa with a fully-fitted Brachytherapy suite with a 3-Dimensional HDR Gamma med brachytherapy machine, which treats patients to any music of their choice as part of soothing relief.
The centre also has two radiotherapy wings containing two ovarian vital beam linear accelerators and one Varian Halcyon against all forms of cancer. Its services include consultation, counselling, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and pharmacy.
Cancer treatment available at the NSIA-LUTH covers breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, leukaemia, lymphoma, colon cancer, head and neck cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, basal cell cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and sarcomas.
Today, the NSIA-LUTH, which began operations about four years ago, has attended to over 6,500 patients, over 6,231 chemotherapy treatments, 3,997 radiotherapy treatments and 97 brachytherapy treatments. Thus, the Head of Clinical and Radiation Oncology of NLCC, Dr Muhammad Habeebu, encouraged routine checks. “Nigerians come for a check-up. “A third of cancers can be cured if detected early, and that treatment is what the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre is all about.”