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Cancer is not a death sentence

If she not wrong diagnosis by American doctors who in 1998, countered an earlier diagnosis by Nigerian doctors that there is a cancerous growth that needs to be excised, Dora Akunyili would have lived longer with early treatment. LARA ADEJORO writes.

GRIEF and shock are not enough to describe the sudden death of a former Minister of Information and erstwhile Director- General of the National Agency for Food and

Drug Administration (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, especially from a health related issue being someone who fought so hard to ensure that millions of Nigerians got the best there is from the health industry.
After a two-year struggle with cancer, the award winning pharmacist, respected academic and distinguished administrator, who was also a member of the ongoing National Conference in Abuja, died in a specialist hospital in India on Saturday, June 7 at about 10am (Nigerian time).
Cancer hits everyone, the rich and the poor irrespective of where you are from. It hits the poor and vulnerable harder and drives them into deeper poverty.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the worldwide burden of Cancer will rise by 70 per cent from 14 million cases in 2012 to 24 million in 2035, much of it borne by poorer countries. Of all the exports of the modern world, cancer is one of which we should feel least proud. Once a disease of rich countries it is now a global epidemic  and the Westernisation of traditional lifestyles is in large part to blame. Cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, sedentary lifestyles  all are fuelling its growth. The rate of increase is so great and the disease so challenging that “treating our way out of the problem” is not an option, according to Dr Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Prevention is the key. More than 50 per cent of cancer cases could be avoided, he writes in the preface to the World Cancer Report 2014.
However, experts still maintain that early detection, management and treatment are important in fighting the scourge of cancer. Speaking with National Daily, a professor of Radiology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Ifeoma Okoye said that some cancers like pancreas, kidney, ovarian transgress very fast “and by the time you know if anything is wrong with you, it has gone fast but there are ones like cervical cancer that you can prevent. Breast cancer progresses very fast but with early detection, people live longer.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says, 1 in 3 of all cancers can be prevented, another 1 in 3 can be effectively cured with early diagnosis and palliative care can improve the quality of life of the last third. Some of the well-known cancer survivors in Nigeria are: Dame Abimbola Fashola, the wife of Lagos State Governor, a breast cancer survivor. Dame Virgy Etiaba is a colon cancer survivor. Engineer Thomas John, the former Group MD/CEO of NNPC is a prostate cancer survivor. Frank Aja-Ukpabi, the MD/CEP, WestSide Supplies Nigeria Limited is a nose cancer survivor.  Mrs Chioma Onyiuke, a lawyer and businesswoman survived from ovarian cancer. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the wife of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), former president of Nigeria Bar Association is a breast cancer survivor and the award winning R&B artist, Olubanke Wellington (Banky W) is also alive because of early detection of a tumor on his shoulder twice.
Sharing her testimony in the bulletin of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, Nigeria (CECP), Mrs Fashola said, "I was able to survive breast cancer through early detection. This year alone, I know 6 people that have died of breast cancer. All of them died in the space of one month. Only God knows what would have happened if I had not detected mine on time. Please be aware that cancer may not present any noticeable symptoms until late stages, when it would be too expensive to treat and could lead to loss of life and bread winners."
Banky W also said, "When I was in the University in New York (USA), after complaining about shoulder pains, a routine check-up revealed that I had cancer. A tumor the size of a baseball was removed from my shoulder. When I went for follow-up, another cancerous tumor was found at the same spot, and again removed successfully. Mine was discovered early enough and it was stopped, so I didn't go through what some of the people go through. I fought through two surgeries on cancerous tumors in the same shoulder before the age 23. I survived, thanks to early detection and the grace of God."
Case against cancer
Cancer is a major growing epidemic in Nigeria. Every year, 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer and about 80,000 die from the disease. The Nigerian death ratio of 4 in 5 is the worst in the world. Cervical cancer which is virtually 100 per cent preventable kills one woman every hour in Nigeria; breast cancer kills 30 Nigeria women whilst prostrate cancer kills 14 Nigerian men every day.
The burden of cancer doubled globally between 1975 and 2000 and it is set to double again by 2020 and near triple by 2030. In contrast, deaths from infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS will decline by 7 million every year. In 2010, cancer took over from heart disease as the number one killer disease of mankind.
Cancer's economic toll was $895 billion in 2008 (equivalent to 1.5 per cent of the world's GDP).
According to the CECP, Nigeria's health system is ill prepared to deal with cancer. Nigeria has the eleventh lowest life expectancy in the world, which is less than 60. India has over 120 comprehensive cancer centres, Nigeria has none and Nigerians spend 200 million USD annually to seek treatment abroad.
Okoye said, “The infrastructure for cancer treatment is very poor especially radiotherapy treatment, drugs are still expensive and what is happening is that the drugs are to be taken for 6 weeks but some can only afford to get the drugs for 2 weeks.”
She said, “Institutions can come in to help so that patients can comply with drugs. Also, there is also need for more medical personnel in the area of oncology. Nigeria should embrace private public partnership; healthcare is business and can in turn help us.”
Let's war against cancer
On the International Corporate Philanthropy Day (ICPD), February 25, 2013, CECP-Nigeria adopted as its first focal cause the big war against cancer, an initiative to take health promotion and cancer prevention to the grassroots of Nigeria. The CECP/ICPD provides a platform by which the organized private sector can unite and take the lead in channeling resources towards community development.
The specific goal of this campaign is to raise funds to acquire thirty seven (37) Mobile Cancer Centres (MCCs). The MCCs will facilitate the ongoing nationwide cancer screening/treatment campaign of the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP), a non-governmental initiative.
The MCC is a clinic on wheels, for screening, follow-up and treatmemt (including surgeries). It includes facilities for colonoscopy, sonology, mammography, cryotherapy, as well as equipment for screening for prostrate cancer and other common cancers. The MCC will also deliver preventive care against other diseases which increase the risk of cancer, including malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, kidney disease, hypertension and HIV/AIDS. The cost of one MCC is N95, 000000 (ninety five million naira).
Any organization or individual could support this cause by utilizing their corporate or social communication network to promote the two dedicated donation platforms-44777 and 777526. Living a meaningful life would also mean to help someone as you along in this world by texting cancer to those numbers to help spread the word and reduce cancer menace in Nigeria through prevention and early detection.
With efforts to reduce economic hardship caused by cancer could help reduce disruptions in work and daily activities, maximize employment opportunities, and increase productivity among cancer survivors.



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