Fighting cancer: Lagos Assembly’s bold initiative
The Lateef Jakande Auditorium of the Lagos State House of Assembly was packed full on Wednesday, September 28, 2016. The faces in the hall were friendly, they were smiling faces but you can deduce the seriousness in their looks.
It was the one day public hearing programme organised by the House Committee on Health where members of the public particularly stakeholders in the health sector were invited to discuss and make suggestions on a Bill for the establishment of a cancer institute in the state.
The attendance, the passionate discussion and the commitment of the participants to contributing their quota to the eradication of the cancer disease in the state were confirmation that the Bill when passed into law will be one of the most people oriented laws to be enacted by the House.
Not a few who participated at the one-day event heaped praises on the state Assembly particularly the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa for their determination and commitment to the eradication of cancer of all sorts from the Nigerian society with special emphasis on Lagos State.
Participants were particularly pleased that the House sought contributions and suggestions from members of the public especially stakeholders from the health sector.
“The House deserves praises particularly the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa who we learnt was the initiator of the Bill. This is an initiative that will go a long way in reducing the menace of the disease to the barest minimum,” one of the participants said.
Indeed, Rt. Hon. Obasa has been leading by example. Since the commencement of the 8th Assembly, the Speaker has led his colleagues in introducing private member bills. It is also a fact that most of the bills initiated by the Speaker are people oriented which have direct impact on the welfare and standard of living of the people.
The recent Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill he initiated which had been passed by the House and assented into law by the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode is a typical example of such bill.
The Neighbourhood Safety Corps law apart from improving security at the grassroots level is set to provide 5000 jobs with the recent decision of the state government to employ 5000 neighbourhood watch personnel.
In initiating the establishment of the cancer institute bill, Speaker Obasa was guided by the alarming statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on increase cases of cancer globally particularly the third world countries among which is Nigeria.
Before discussing the aims, objectives and operation of the bill, there is the need to explain in brief what cancer means.
According to medical experts, cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body hence it has the potentials to kill if not detected and treated early. It should be noted, however, that not all tumors are cancerous; thus, benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer does not occur without symptoms hence if you are having an unusual lump in any part of your body, you are bleeding abnormally, you are losing weight without cause, you have a prolonged cough or you have a sudden change in your bowel movement, then danger may be lurking and you have to see your doctor fast.
The popular cliche, ‘smokers are liable to die young’ is indeed true if it is related to cancer. This is because it has been discovered that smoking tobacco is a major cause of cancer with statistics showing that tobacco smoking causes about 22 per cent. Thus what we eat is a major cause.
The way we live is also a major cause. Thus, obesity, poor diet, lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol intake are major causes of various forms of cancer and in fact are responsible for 10 per cent of cancer death.
It is not limited to this: infections, exposure to ionising radiation and environmental pollution are all causes of cancer. It has been reported that nearly 20 per cent of cancers are due to infections of various forms. Thus, the way we live is a major cause of cancer and the major reason it is prevalent in developing countries such as Nigeria. Let us also add that in some cases, some cancers are generic and can be inherited. What this means is that we all have one cancer trait or the other but it is our lifestyle that is key to its development or not. And that is why the way we live and what we put in our mouths and stomachs should be on positive level.
Many cancers can be prevented by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, not drinking too much alcohol, eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, vaccination against certain infectious diseases, not eating too much processed and red meat, and avoiding too much sunlight exposure.
To the layman, cancer is notorious because it is a terminal disease which eventually terminates the live of anyone afflicted with it. To make matter worse, it is of different kinds: skin, lungs, throat, prostate, cervical, breast, blood, bone and mouth cancer among others.
Some are common to females like breast and cervical cancers while prostate is only associated with men. But they all have one grim consequence if not detected and treated on time: death.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IAPC), as at 2008, 7.6 million people have died globally from cancer while it was predicted that the figure will reach 21 million in 2030.
In 2012, about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred globally and this does not include skin cancer other than melanoma. It caused about 8.2 million deaths or 14.6 per cent of human deaths.
Apart from this, cancer has been responsible for 13 per cent of all deaths in the world while 70 per cent of these deaths occur in middle and low income countries like Nigeria.
It was also reported that only 17 per cent of African countries have fund for cancer control programmes while less than 50 per cent of the countries of the world can boast of such fund for cancer control programmes.
Coming home to Nigeria, 10,000 people die annually from cancer while 250,000 new cases are reported annually. Prominent Nigerians have died of one cancer ailment or the other. Perhaps one of the most celebrated Nigerians lost to cancer was the celebrated human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi who died of lung cancer in 2009. Another prominent Nigerian lost to cancer was celebrated musician, Sunny Okosun who lost his life battle to colon cancer.
• Razak, Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, lives in Lagos