New Telegraph

Expert Rallies Investment For Comprehensive Cancer Centres

…As Deaths in Africa’s Projected to Reach 1M Yearly by 2030

An expert has urged stake- holders in both public and private organisations to invest in facilities and infrastructure needed to tackle cancers. Executive Secretary, Giving Tide International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Dr. Abia Nzelu who made the call, has also urged people to go for early checkup so that they would detect cancers on time as well as get early treatment with a view to defeat the disease before it causes damage that could result to death. Nzelu in a statement to mark the World Cancer Day observed on February 4 every year to find ways to further reduce the burden that cancer has caused all over the world said the ultimate goal of the GivingTide project is the establishment of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) in Nigeria.

The GivingTide project operated by the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP) is a nongovernmental initiative of mass medical mission. To achieve this goal of establishing the CCC in the country, there- fore, Nzelu said major investments of resources are urgently needed to actualise the “big war against cancer.” Since 2007, NCPP has spear- headed community-based cancer prevention across Nigeria. In 2017, a fleet of Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC) was acquired and deployed, to scale up the reach and impact of the programme. “GivingTide believes that a few inspired, passionate, and dedicated heroes can help Nigerians to shake off the endemic ‘mass hysteria’ which has put the most populous black nation at the bottom of nearly all developmental sectors, including health and cancer care.

She said, “Nigeria desperately needs heroes like Sir Dorab Tata and Mrs. Mazumdar Shaw (founders of India’s first and the largest Cancer Centres respectively); heroes like the founders of Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York (the first Cancer Institute in the United States of America (USA). “The best way to nudge Nigerians away from the indolence of “mass hysteria” is to show them the still more excellent way. In line with the focus of WCD 2024, we can “challenge those in power” only if we lead by example. There is no alternative.”

The focus of the 2024 campaign is “Together, we challenge those in power” to shake the very foundations of injustice—to become life- long advocates fully equipped to push for lasting change.” “Cancer patients in developing countries have a much higher risk of dying due to late diagnosis and poor access to quality treatment. “WHO’s new global survey sheds light on major inequalities and lack of financial protection for cancer around the world, with populations, especially in lower income countries, unable to access the basics of cancer care,” said Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Dis- eases (NCDs). “Despite the progress that has been made in the early detection of cancers and the treatment and care of cancer patients–significant disparities in cancer treatment outcomes exist not only between high and low-income regions of the world, but also with- in countries.

Where someone lives should not determine whether they live. Tools exist to enable governments to prioritise cancer care, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services. “Furthermore, cancer is often totally curable when detected and treated early. Although most cancers have no symptoms in the early stages, some screening tests such as mammography (for breast cancer) and PSA test (for prostate cancer), can detect cancer even when it is not obvious. This both reduces the burden of dealing with late-stage cancers and increases the chances of successful treatment. Indeed, cancer screening programmes have great potential to improve cancer outcomes. When organised effectively and quality-assured, they can reduce mortality and even prevent certain cancers like cervical and colorectal cancer – two major causes of needless cancer deaths in Nigeria.

Cancer is a major public health priority and leading cause of death globally. It is a major cause of geographic, racial, social and gender inequality, causing one in every six deaths and affecting almost every household (one in five persons diagnosed globally). The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that worldwide there were 20 million new cases and 9.7 million deaths from cancer in 2022. Furthermore, the global cancer burden is projected to increase by about 77 per cent by 2050. Sadly, cancer places its heaviest burden on developing countries like Nigeria, where more than 60 per cent of the world’s total new annual cases and over 70 per cent of cancer deaths occur, yet only five per cent of global spending in cancer care takes place in these countries. The cancer situation in Africa is disheartening.

In 2022, 1,173,771 new cancer cases occurred on the continent, with 756, 531 deaths. Cancer deaths in Africa are projected to reach about one million per year by 2030. This is so because cancer survival rates in Africa are currently only 12 per cent, compared to over 80 per cent in high-income nations. Nigeria is the number one contributor to these dismal statistics.

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