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Improving cancer care management

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As cancer burden continues to increase globally, studies have shown that shortage of health professionals, lack of screening centres, poor diagnostic technique and funding among others, are fuelling the ailment, especially in developing countries.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about24.6 million people live with cancer world-wide and if the trend continues, it is estimated that by 2020, 16 million new cases will be diagnosed out of which 70per cent will be in the developing countries.

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Consultant Haemato-oncologist, and Medical Director, Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre and Specialist Hospital (MRCCSH) Dr Modupe Elebute-Odunsi, however, stated that many health systems in low- and middle-income countries are least prepared to manage the burden because huge numbers of cancer patients do not have to access to timely, quality diagnosis and treatment.

She said the huge gap in terms of care for cancer patients can be bridged by making accurate diagnostics, early detection, access to care and quality treatment.

Elebute-Odunsi who spoke at the Soft Opening of Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre and Specialist Hospital, Victoria Island, Lagos, lamented that standard practice requires one radiotherapy machine for about 1,000 persons but the country with over 200 million people have less than 10 functional radiotherapy machines.

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to improve cancer care management, the medical director who has worked in the United Kingdom for more than 30 years said it was important to bring back knowledge, skills and therapy that is not in the country.

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The haemato-oncologist stated that MRCCSH was designed to capture a significant percentage of cancer patients and to be a reference point for research, data analysis and a training institute for all stakeholders involved in cancer management.

The expert noted that MRCCSH has partnered with colleagues who have trained in the United States and the United Kingdom to share knowledge and skills.

Her words: “We are working together already to look at diagnosis. We will all bring in our knowledge and make sure we have an accurate diagnosis. We have the confidence of the right diagnosis because we have all our diagnostics machines with excellent people who have come to run those machines and laboratories.”

Also, she disclosed that MRCCSH is posited to be the first of its kind in Nigeria and indeed West Africa with the exceptional world-class specialist hospital with highly skilled professionals across the globe under one roof.

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The medical director highlighted that the facility is equipped with modern, one-stop infrastructure and technology for comfortable cancer care to provide robust service delivery to Nigeria and the world at large.

“There are a lot of gaps to fill. Cancer number is going up. The number of patients in their thirties I have seen is very disheartening and so I hope we will be at the forefront of driving a better standard of care for cancer patients and other types of conditions too. One thing I noticed is the strong family history of cancer in Nigeria. That is unusual, for almost every patient you see, they have a first-degree family that has cancer. It is a big thing for us to look out for. One of the things we do here is to collect data because, we do not have accurate data on the number of patients with cancer, type of cancer and how people respond to treatment.

“We also have an issue where people are presenting late. Many patients present when they are already in stage 4 and the cancer is already spread. We have a lot of work to do in terms of screening patients and making people understand because if you going to offer treatment the earlier you make diagnostics the better you treat the patient,” She added.
Elebute-Odunsi said the centre would start to see patients soon and the one-stop-shop can serve as where to look after patients not only with cancer but other diagnostics seen by specialists and with hope to expand and have other centres across the country.

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She also called for collaboration between the private the public sector so as to grow the practice in a short period of time. “When it comes to awareness, one thing I have seen with COVID-19 is that everybody has risen to the challenge. This is an opportunity to raise awareness via social media, using podcasts. We, clinicians, have a responsibility, same with different cancer support groups to help spread the word that if you present early for screening then you can get help,” the expert noted.

Elebute-Odunsi lamented on the high-cost implication of setting up such a centre urged the government to do more in helping investors. She also charged the government to work with the private sector and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) because there is so much to do so that patients can access care.

Services at MRCCSH include cancer screening, clinics State-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and pathology service, multi-disciplinary clinical service by world-renowned specialists, world-class standard treatment administered through specialist-prescribed protocols and robust Information Technology systems to ensure the safe delivery of treatment at all times.

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The centre also boasts of On-site radiotherapy service with state-of-the-art equipment, On-site chemotherapy service delivered in comfortable, modern facilities, an In-house pharmacy with dedicated aseptic facilities, Library and information/resource centre for patients, their families caregivers and patient support services to provide counselling and other psychological support complimentary services including nutrition advice, wig-fitting, massage and reflexology. Imaging centre with CT, mammogram, ultrasound, X-Ray machines Value-added Services:-Modern laboratory services, Two operating theatres, eight-bed chemotherapy suite, Radiotherapy centre with linear accelerator and brachytherapy, 10 private ensuites, inpatient room Pharmacy Counselling service, Using state-of-the-art diagnostic technology and all aspects of treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as complementary and psychological support.

Also, a former commissioner of health, Lagos State, Dr Jide Idris said that shortage of cancer facilities is a major factor affecting the fight against cancer in the country

He called for Public-Private-Partnership to address the issues of health infrastructure across the country.

Idris urge the government to support such initiatives and also advocated for the compulsory health insurance scheme for the populace.

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