Survivors task National Assembly on breast cancer research, funding, care policy
Breast cancer survivors in the country have urged the National Assembly to give cancer research grants and support policies some priorities, to stem the tide of cancer-related sicknesses and deaths in Nigeria.
The concerned stakeholders, who spoke at the second Omolara Jolaoso Memorial Lecture to commemorate the World Cancer Day 2016 in Lagos, said that the agony of surviving the disease or deaths, which is common, would drastically reduce with improved research and clear-cut policy on care and survivorship.
Founder/ president of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, said that aside from poor awareness and ignorant, cancer patients still present late for treatment because they don’t have money to pay “in a health system that is cash and carry.”
“That is why we need to have policies in place that will support our women. Government needs to come in. We can’t wait for our women to die; we have to work on intervention, particularly cancer researches and effective cancer care services,” Anyanwu-Akeredolu said.
She added that the reason why at least 90 per cent of all breast cancer cases in the United States survive is due to priority given to care and research.
She said: “We are beneficiaries of what their (US) researchers are doing over there because they are been extended to us. So, I go to the US Congress to lobby against cutting research funds, because researchers are working day and night on how they can find a cure and also improve our lives.
“But I don’t have access to our own National Assembly complex to tell them about research funds to save our women from die of breast cancer,” she said.
Anyanwu-Akeredolu, herself a breast cancer survivor, said further that the onus is Nigerians to live a healthy life and demand from the government adequate funding for improved infrastructure for breast cancer care, lobby for policy legislation to guide impactful interventions and stimulate the interest of next generation of breast cancer researchers in Nigeria.
Breast cancer is currently the commonest female malignancy and in fact the leading cause of cancer death in the country. It was estimated that at least one woman dies of breast cancer every 10mins.
Global Cancer Facts and Figures for African countries, being 15 per cent of the world population, represents eight per cent of the new cases, but 12 per cent of breast cancer deaths because of poor survival due to late stage at diagnosis and limited treatment.
Professor of Medical Oncology, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seatle, Washington, United States, Dr. Julie Gralow, said that Nigeria need to put in place a comprehensive cancer control programme that also caters for survivors with good survivorship plan.
Gralow noted that as care services improve in the country, the population of survivors are also bound to improve and would need continuous support to deal with long-term effects of cancer treatment even years after.
She informed that there are over 14million cancer survivors in America today and a dedicated National Cancer Institute Office of Cancer Survivorship established in 1996 was promoted their course.