Worrisome forecast from DHF

Nigerian health watchers must be disturbed by the revelation that the global cancer statistics may hit 30m by the year 2030.

The revelation was made last Tuesday by the Executive Director of Dove-Haven Foundation (DHF), Dr. Ekundayo Samuel, during the sensitization of over 200 transport workers in Isanlu in Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi state.

The event, tagged “The Role of Transportation Workers in Cancer Control” was intended to enlighten them on their role in cancer control and how they could join in the fight against the killer disease.

He said that before the year 2030, one or two persons would be down with one form of cancer or the other if nothing was done urgently, noting that Nigeria recorded an estimated 100,000 new cases of the ailment this year alone.

Dr. Samuel further stated that the NGO was of conviction that the inclusion of transport workers was the one of the best and quickest ways create awareness in the fight against the plague.

A guest speaker at the occasion, Mrs. Emily Baba, who spoke on the topic, “Cancer Control and the Role of Transport Workers in Preventing the Cancer”, noted that fumes from exhaust pipes of automobiles were among the major causative factors.

She urged the people to be conscious and more sensitive to changes in their bodies and to consult health personnel for necessary advice and screening if necessary.

Baba also noted that the best way to escape the disease was early detection leading to effective management.

Cancer remains one of the serious universal scourges afflicting mankind. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease now kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

It is public knowledge that majority of cancer cases are either undertreated or underreported – many cancer victims die in silence. In our rural and semi-urban communities, afflictions of cancer are tied to witchcraft attack or other reasons bordering on superstition.

A few years ago, cancerous afflictions were limited to the breasts (for women) and the lungs (for tobacco smokers). But this is no longer the case. Cervical cancer, leukemia (cancer of the blood), liver cancer, oral cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer have become more rampant though they have high cure rates when detected early and treated according to best practices. All categories of people can be afflicted by the disease. Even those who lead healthy or unhealthy lifestyles; those who are physically fit or out of shape; those who exercise regularly or lead a sedentary existence; vegetarians and meat lovers are not totally immune to the cancer attack. 

The disease remains a deadly pandemic that has no cultural, racial, religious or age barrier. Knowledge of the causes of cancer and interventions to prevent and manage the disease is imperative. It is a well known fact that some unhealthy lifestyles and treatments are causing damages to the body’s immune system. The human body is designed to heal itself but unhealthy eating habits such as consumption of fried, processed, sugary, junk/fast foods, excessive intake of alcoholic drinks and beverages laden with additive contents/ preservatives and, lately, artificially ripened fruits, have been identified as enemies of the human body. Nigerians need to be freed from the sick notion that someone must die of something someday. It is a senseless alibi to continue to indulge in such dangerous eating habits. 

While the war against the spread of cancer is desirable, a continuous public enlightenment campaign must be embarked upon to educate Nigerians on the need to place more emphasis on the prevention of a disease that even has no known cure yet.

The last time a noticeable attempt was made at tackling the scourge was in 2010, when a bill for an act to establish the National Agency for Cancer Enlightenment, Screening and Treatment (NACEST) was sent to the National Assembly. It was the first time in decades that an attempt to get a law aimed at bringing the scourge under closer scrutiny and control had gone that far. The legal framework was intended to create the needed platform for confronting the disease from all angles and perhaps save millions of Nigerians from preventable deaths. Unfortunately, the bill died in its infancy.

A year earlier, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel when former First Lady, Turai Yar’Adua, raised funds for her proposed International Cancer Centre to be sited in Abuja. At the end of the day, about N10bn was raised. Many questioned the motive behind the exercise which they believed was intended for self-enrichment. The cynics were proved right because the project never got off the ground even before the death of her husband about a year after the windfall.  

We call on the National Assembly to revisit the moribund NACEST Bill with a view to resuscitating it. In doing so, the country would be seen to be making serious efforts at fighting the disease. Until that is done, the killer plague remains a winner!