Cancer: The awareness challenge



Cancer, which is a ‘global burden’, has been on the increase and in a bid to control the scourge; there is need for concerted efforts in form of awareness. In view of this, the United Nations has marked the 4th of February every year, to raise awareness on the disease and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. AJUMA EDWINA OGIRI writes

Ada was a lively beautiful lady, who was in her late 20’s. She lived in a remote village with her husband who was a farmer, and had two kids for him. One day Ada woke up feeling sharp pains in one of her breasts. She went to the local Clinic in her village to complain and after examining her, the doctor gave her some pain relieve drugs to sooth the pain. Ada took the drugs but the pain neither subsided nor finished. The pain kept increasing as each day passed by and the breast started swelling, with discharge from the nipples. Ada could not take the pain any longer and her family resorted to taking her to a herbalist, as they believed the disease she was suffering from was a result of a diabolic work of an enemy on her since the local clinic in their village could not diagnose her ailment. Like every other herbalist would have done, the herbalist gave her some herbs to boil and drink and some substance to rub on the breast. Ada eventually died. What they did not know was that Ada was suffering from Cancer of the breast. If only she had awareness of the disease, she would have survived with early diagnosis and right treatment strategies.
The above illustration shows the result of lack of awareness on cancer, which the rural areas tend to experience more, and also lack of medical equipment in most local clinics in rural areas for scanning to detect cancer. Just like Ada and her family, so many people are still not aware of this deadly disease.
According to reports, currently 7.6 million people die from cancer in the world every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely, which calls for urgent action to raise awareness about the disease. In response to this, the United Nations has set aside the 4th of February every year to commemorate the World Cancer Day.
World Cancer Day, which is celebrated globally, is marked to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. World Cancer Day was founded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. The primary goal of the World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer by 2020.
This year’s World Cancer Day focused on Target 5 of the 2013 World Cancer Declaration which was “dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer,” under the tagline ‘debunk the myths.” The United Nations on this year’s World Cancer Day further decided to demystify another set of four myths which have negatively impacted on cancer prevention and control.
Just like every other country, Nigeria joined in the celebration of the World Cancer Day by dispelling the four myths associated with the disease which are: “we don’t need to talk about it,” “there are no signs or symptoms of cancer,” “there is nothing I can do about cancer,” “I don’t have Right to cancer care.”
The Federal ministry of health in a bid to address these myths or misconceptions, launched awareness jingles in the three major languages in the country which are English, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba as well as Pidgin English for easier knowledge about the disease, as talking about it will improve early detection which ultimately saves lives.
The Minister for Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, recently told journalist during a ministerial press briefing in commemoration of the 2014 World Cancer Day, that the ministry “has left no stone unturned to demystify cancer in Nigeria.”
The minister added that in a bid to ensure that people have the right access proven and effective cancer treatments and services on equal terms without suffering hardship, the Federal government has established at least one Tertiary Health Institution in all the 36 states of the Federation with capacity to manage different categories of cancers.
“Our vision is that no Nigerian should travel more than 200 kilometers to access the best of cancer in Nigeria.
“To this end, limited facilities such as radiotherapy and Nuclear medicine services will be available in 10 Federal Tertiary Health institutions in Nigeria by the end of 2016.
“A technical Working Group will soon be inaugurated to scale up cervical Cancer screening project in Nigeria. This will further expand our current effort in cervical cancer prevention in Nigeria. The focus is on cervical cancer because of its prevalence in Nigeria as the second commonest cancer after breast cancer and the fact that it is preventable,” he explained.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, Cancer cases are expected to surge 57% worldwide in the next 20 years, an imminent “human disaster” that will require a renewed focus on prevention to combat.
The report stated that about half of all cancers were preventable, and could be avoided if current medical knowledge was acted upon. The disease could be tackled by addressing lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise; adopting screening programs; or, in the case of infection-triggered cancers such as cervical and liver cancers, through vaccines.
The report also stated that, the next two most common diagnoses were for breast (1.7 million, 11.9%) and large bowel cancer (1.4 million, 9.7%). Liver (800,000 or 9.1%) and stomach cancer (700,000 or 8.8%) were responsible for the most deaths after lung cancer.

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