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Misdiagnosis major cause of rise in childhood cancer deaths

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*Landers 88 Reunion seeks increased funding, research, early detection to reduce prevalence
*PSN, Johnson & Johnson partner to expand access to free innovative medicines for Nigerians

Experts have attributed the rise in childhood cancer death to misdiagnosis and wrong treatment by medical professionals.They opined that most medical professionals lack the ability to detect cancer early in children; hence they treat them for the common illnesses, which include malaria, typhoid, and measles among other ailments, rather than investigating further and referring the child to specialist in pediatrics.

Speaking at The Dorcas Cancer Foundation (TDCF), Meet and Greet event, a platform that brings survivors, volunteers and healthcare professionals to discuss way forward on reducing childhood cancer in Nigeria, one of the volunteers, whose son survived cancer, Austin Obiajunwa said the inability of medical practitioners to diagnose cancer at the early stage has led to the death of many children.

He said his son, Daivyan, fell sick at the age of two, in which he was taken to the hospital and was treated for the common illness. He said Daivyan’s health continued to deteriorate until he was properly diagnosed of stage-four cancer at age four.Austine said, but for the immediate treatment given to his son, they would have lost him to cancer.

Other volunteers who lost close relatives to cancer pointed out lack of quality essential medicines, early diagnosis and timely treatment and care as the major reasons why children in developing countries do not survive cancer.As part of efforts geared towards reducing the burden of cancer in Nigeria and to mark the World Cancer Day (WCD) 2018, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Johnson & Jonson (Janssen) to engage in a strategic partnership to expand access to innovative cancer medicines for its members free of charge and larger society.

President PSN, Ahmed Yakasai, told journalist that in addition to cancer (ovarian cancer, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus/HIV-related kaposi sarcoma, metastatic breast cancer, metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer) treatment, the partnership would cover areas like schizophrenia, anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, psoriactic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, plaque psoriasis and bipolar disorders.

Yakasai said: “In many ways you can make a difference based using the above key messages for this year World Cancer Day, kindly share it with your friends and family. We must as a matter of urgency increase awareness about cancer and its effects in rural and urban areas across the country. Identify winning formulas that will accelerate progress and result. More than one third of cancer is preventable if we adopt a healthy lifestyle. Definitely, together we can reduce global epidemic of cancer.

“The prime goal for us is to ensure fewer people develop cancer, more people are successfully treated, there is a better quality of life for people during treatment and beyond, and that we are winning the war against cancer in Nigeria, Africa and the world.”Also, as part of its efforts to raise awareness, Landers 88 Reunion Club has called for increased advocacy for early cancer detection and treatment across the nation.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer accounts for 13 percent of all deaths registered globally and 70 percent of the figure occurs in middle and low income countries.Also, 14.1 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and it is expected to rise to 21.6million by 2030.Worried with the increasing rate of the scourge, President, Landers 88 Reunion Club, Soji Adekogbe, said it is important to increase research, advocacy and funding so as reduce the menace of the disease.

“The essence of the event is to primarily confront cancer and provide important statistics to stimulate the need for a more strategic cancer advocacy and to influence the government, decision makers and other relevant stakeholders through the effective use of evidence to reduce the national cancer burden,” he said.
Adekogba highlighted the need to promote greater equity and the integration of cancer control into our national development agenda.

“Investing in cancer control, from prevention to treatment and care, can bring about important changes in burden of the disease. It is pertinent that Nigeria is not left out in the movement as the global direction is looking forward toward reducing cancer related illness and deaths,” he said.First Lady, Lagos State, Bolanle Ambode, said it is important to raise awareness on cancer, as it is no longer a death sentence if properly managed. She advised healthy diet as one of the best ways to avoid the deadly scourge.

The First Lady who was represented by Mrs. Olufunmilayo Adediran said that it is important to raise awareness so that both young and old would know that cancer can be prevented as she lamented on many unaccounted untimely deaths caused by the diseases across the country with little intervention mechanism to checkmate it.She continued: “Too many life lives have been cut down both locally and globally because of that disease. What we must emphasise is what can be done to save precious lives and needless prevent deaths because it has causes untold pains and anguish among its victims.” Also, Chairman of the event, Dr Celestine Chukwunenye said that anybody can get and develop cancer regardless the gender. He added: “You are at more risk of developing the disease if any of your family members has the ailment. Cancer can be got through dirty environment, processed food, contaminated water, alcohol and smoking.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Adeleke Kaka, said it is only five percent of the population do visit the hospital for routine checkups for different reasons, maybe if they want to travel out or maybe for marriage.He also mentioned that the cost of treatment is very expensive, advising the public to maintain a very good and healthy lifestyle.

According to report by Cure Search for Children’s Cancer, cancer is the number one cause of death in children, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer everyday, as 12 percent of the children diagnosed do not survive.The report further estimates that the average age of children diagnosed is six, as more than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.The founder, TDCF, Dr Adebayo Joseph said medical professional must be proactive in detecting childhood cancer, noting that cases of children should be handled by pediatric oncologist, who have vast experience in treating children, rather that the general doctors, to enable prompt diagnosis of cancer.

“We have a child that has been going to the hospital for years and is been treated for one infection after the other and no one has done a deeper investigation to find out the cause of the problem. You need a pediatric oncologist to do that, someone who specialized in that field. Medicine is not just knowledge but instinct and experience, there are so many other things that come in to play so we need the children to be treated by specialists, that is the second problem we have. We have so many children who have been treated by general doctors, general physicians, and obstetrician, somebody whose specialty is not childhood cancer. You cannot have the best outcome with that,” she stressed.

Joseph who is also a Clinical Radiation Oncologist, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), advocated for increased awareness at the community and healthcare level, calling for implementation of policy and health insurance scheme that would cover the cost of treatment for children with cancer, as the treatment is expensive, costing about N 2 million.

Also speaking, the Health Educator at Lagos State Ministry of Health, Olubunmi Ilawole, who lost a close friend, to breast cancer due to misdiagnosis, urged parents to seek immediate medical care for their children to avoid death, just as she emphasized on the Lagos state insurance scheme, which would cater for the health need of less privilege in the state.


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Childhood cancer

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