Tackling poor care for cancer patients
Stakeholders in the breast cancer health care delivery have decried the poor treatment rendered to patients even as they called for urgent need to intensify public enlightenment on the disease.
The stakeholders include: Care, Organisation, Public Enlightenment (C.O.P.E); Pfizer, Nigeria and East African Region (Pfizer NEAR); and Bricoin Foundation.
Chief Executive Officer of C.O.P.E breast cancer awareness centre, Ebunola Anozie, has decried the poor state of cancer treatment in Nigeria, adding that about one-third of deaths from cancer are due to poor behavioural and dietary risk.
Anozie during a press conference to mark the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), last week, said Nigeria is yet to take a holistic action plan towards addressing the prevalent cancer scourge.
The breast cancer awareness programme was co-sponsored by Pfizer. She said the theme of this year’s Cancer Awareness month, “We can, I can,” is set to encourage the support of both private and public sector to fight against cancer discrimination and support people with the disease.
Anozie observed that the healthcare system in the country leaves more to be desired as majority of cancer patients lose their lives to poor management, lack of state of the art equipment, non-affordability and high cost of anti-cancer drug, persistent breakdown of our outdated radiotherapy machines and incompetent medical hands are some of the reasons why cancer patients go to Ghana or India for treatment.
Noting that there have been several proposed cancer action plans by different international bodies, including the United Nation (UN), she said, one cannot over-emphasised the need for political will in Nigeria to really tackle the issue of cancer with the urgent need and seriousness it deserves.
“If the government is to use the money retrieved by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for cancer health care service, the country would have at least 15 standard radio therapies with qualified personnel, hence, save more lives.
“The government do not only need to ensure that the country have a functional health sector which would help in ameliorating the persistent brain drain of relevant health professionals that are needed, but also needs to have the political will to urgently tackle the issue of cancer.
“Even those diagnosed early are not treated in time due to long queue and poor access to appropriate treatment, leading to high mortality rate. Government must increase the health budget and overhaul our healthcare,” she emphasised.
Furthermore, Anozie said that although there is a regular increase in the number of breast cancer cases, the awareness is not enough. “All hands have to be on deck to ensure that it works. It is not about the one month awareness; it should go beyond that because people can have cancer anytime,” she said.
Reiterating Pfizer support to breast cancer patients, the Media and Public Relations Manager, Pfizer, Ngozi Ushedo said, “We will continue to work together and speak with one voice to help raise awareness on early detection so as to reduce cancer risks and improving the quality of life for cancer survivors and patients.”
Co-Founder of the Bricoin Foundation, Abigail Simon-Hart, said that over 200 breast cancer patient has benefited from their programmes and has partnered with Macmillian’s Cancer Support, United Kingdom (UK) to train nurses and doctors in cancer support and end of life care.
Emphasizing that she was a breast cancer survivor, she said there is life with cancer, adding that cancer is a very isolating disease, which stigma many women and families are not ready to go through.
On preventive measures that can be taken against breast cancer, Simon-Hart urged Nigerians to take proper dieting and exercise serious. “Nigerians have many health challenges today because they tend to copy the Western world do and indiscriminately replace vegetables with taking of junk foods. We have changed our lifestyle, and this is not the best for us. If things continue this way, there would be increase in cancer patients. Educating the younger ones is also very important.”
She further encourages women to do personal regular checkup and report to the hospital if they notice any change in their breast. “You have the choice to live, to fight cancer and win.”
Noting that there is need to individually take patients and not to generalize, she said, every cancer patient react differently to the disease. “We need to understand the need and values of the cancer patients. Proper care involves all aspect, for support, patient that are terminally ill are to pass away with pain freely and peacefully.
It is worthy of note that COPE and Bricon have made giant strides in providing support to cancer survivor and those battling with the disease. For over 18years, COPE has embarked on massive breast awareness campaign providing breast screening in Lagos and several other states, while Bricon foundation works with patients already diagnosed with the disease.
COPE will be launching a new initiative called project #BIG10 where ten Nigerian Banks will join the battle against cancer. This initiative involves the banks giving their customers free ultra sound breast scans to show they care while Bricon foundation recently set up “Help 4 husbands” (H4H group), towards providing support for those that are battling or have lost the battle with cancer.
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