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Why Nigeria is lagging far behind other nations in fight against cancer

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A linear accelerator, or LINAC, is a machine that is commonly used to deliver external beam radiation treatments to cancer patients. … In this way, the LINAC can target and destroy cancerous cells in a precise area of a patient’s body with minimal exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.<br />PHOTO CREDIT: TANIT MEDICAL ENGINEERING

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and it is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Unfortunately, 70 per cent of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In Nigeria, 100, 000, people are diagnosed with cancer yearly and about 80,000 patients die due to lack of access to treatment, the dearth of medical equipment needed to manage the disease and also lack of funds.

Although, International standard stipulates one radiotherapy machine per one million people but unfortunately, in Nigeria with a population of about 200million, can only boast of five or six functional machines.

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Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi-Araba, Prof. Francis Durosinmi-Etti at Varian Oncology Summit aimed at introducing the latest development in cancer care said, although Nigeria seems to be lagging behind in the fight against cancer, in the last few years, the country is waking up gradually.

He disclosed that one-third of deaths from cancer are due to the behavioral and dietary risks, high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use.

Durosinmi-Etti disclosed that a few years back, the country did not have a proper facility to manage the patient but now could boast of facilities to reduce the menace of the disease.

The oncologist said: “We still have a lot to do to catch up with the rest of the world but the government is doing quite a lot to change the narratives.

“There is this catastrophic fund released by the government and provided to help indigent cancer patients so that once diagnosed, facility will be there to access care. We want to make sure that nobody is denied treatment because they do not have money.”

The oncologist noted that the increase in cancer cases could be a result that people are becoming more aware and everybody is talking about cancer in society.

Also, Head, Medical Radiotherapy Centre, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr. Joel Yarney noted that cancer is on the increase in low to middle-income countries, stated that many developed countries have succeeded in reducing the burden of cancer.

Yarney added that radiotherapy plays an indispensable role in cancer management and that treatment efficacy can be increased in several ways through the adoption of new technologies.

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He said: “Adoption of new technologies should be guided by data and research and also quality assurance should be paramount with the adoption of these new technologies for effective management of cancer.”

The medical expert explained that the summit was designed to enlighten medical professionals on what to do about cancer care in Nigeria.

Regional Sales Manager West and East Africa, Varian Medical Systems International, Ansu Dukuray said their vision is to see a world without cancer.

He said the summit would create an avenue for stakeholders across the value chain to discuss and develop possible approaches to efficiently deploy quality treatment across Nigeria.

Dukuray said they manufacture innovative cancer care technologies and solutions for partners across the globe.

He added that with intelligent cancer care approach they are harnessing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics to enhance cancer treatment and expand access to care.

According to him, before Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) cancer centre came on board when you are diagnosed with cancer, basically you just wait for your time to die because there was no treatment facility.

“We have worked with Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to build LUTH cancer centre. A patient does not need to travel abroad; we are building capacity by putting treatment centres in Nigeria. We have another centre coming up at Victoria Island, Lagos and we hope to replicate that all over the country,” he said.

Dukuray explained that they do not sell equipment, install and pull out; they also build capacity to be able to support the project. “We have trained engineers through our local partner Tanit Medical Engineering limited to install and maintain the equipment. It is all about sustainability. We need to have the same type of treatment we have in the United States, China, Europe, and other developed world.

“Nigeria is not a poor country. So, I believe we can replicate what we have in the developed world here. We have a number of Nigerians travelling abroad for treatment and the amount spent on medical tourism is $1billion and of that, $400million is spent on cancer treatment. So, there are needs to build capacity here in Nigeria. Varian as a company builds capacity the same as in the advanced world,” he added.

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Also, the Chief Executive Officer, Tanit Medical Engineering Limited, Anthony Abuo Nader stated that they are positioned to address various segments of the hospital development by providing medical infrastructure.

He said that the summit would inform stakeholders in Nigeria on the type of solutions, approach and technologies to support building of capacity.

Nader stated that the stakeholders would leverage on the information they have acquired to innovate, develop and be the stimulator of the potential quality facility within the environment.

The CEO explained they want to help deploy cancer treatment facilities across the country. “We started with the partnership between NSIA and LUTH which is the largest outpatient cancer centre in West Africa. We hope to do more and organise more summits to inform stakeholders on the type of solutions, approach, and technologies to support capacity building and with the hope they would leverage on the information they have acquired to innovate and development and be the stimulator of the potential quality facility within the environment,” he added.

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