HealthThe Stethoscope


Cancer in Nigeria

Cancer is scary and demands proper attention. Cancer remains a solid death sentence in Nigeria of today and anyone can be affected. And you know that Nigeria is not a serious country, when it comes to the prevention or management of cancers.
We often pay lip service to cancer. For example, huge sums of money were allocated in the budget for the establishment of a National Cancer Centre. Grand plans and expensive ground-breaking ceremony of a scam.

Abandoned National Cancer Centre Abuja.

Poor quality of care

Secondly, the bread and butter stuff for investigating cancer like state-of-the-art MRI scanners, PET scans, Bone scans and even high-quality CT scanners are not available in many of our tertiary institutions. So, even the quality of diagnosis is usually suspect: from poor radiological reporting to suspect histological diagnosis.
If you have used poor quality machines to image the patient, the result is likely to be poor as well. If you do not have the right reagents for histology, you will give an unbalanced report. As they say, garbage in, garbage out!

The bottom line is that cancer patients are poorly looked after in Nigeria. Cancer patients must travel from one obsolete machine at the National Hospital, to a defunct machine in Maiduguri and thereafter to another worthless machine in either Benin or Ibadan. The basic radiotherapy machines are not available and cancer queues are longer than the Airport road. So, even though we might need the fancy stuff for some people, we lack the basic stuff for the majority.

Cancer drugs

The drugs for cancer treatment are not manufactured in Nigeria and therefore difficult to come by. Therefore, if you cannot afford to travel out to another country, your remaining time on earth will be awful, painful and downright miserable
Look, there is not even one single centre for palliative care in Nigeria. Not one place where patients can die in peace, pain free enough to have a comfortable exit from this world. Cancer is not funny and a lot of compassion is required in the management of patients. The little we can do is show a little empathy and make life just a little more pleasant.

Unfortunately, we are all exposed to the risks of cancer ranging from mobile phones that can cause brain cancer, to cigarettes causing lung cancer, toxins and poisons in food and the recent upsurge in both breast and cervical cancer. Of course, blood cancers like multiple myeloma, leukemia and even prostate cancer are making their mark, decimating Nigerians in their hundreds daily.

Sadly, that may even include you and me!
The question is, ‘What are you doing today to prevent cancer?

The commonest cancers in Nigeria are breast, prostate, cervical, lung, brain, bowel and blood cancers. This is not in any order of seniority. I will say a few words about some of these cancers and emphasize the ways to prevent these horrible conditions.

Breast cancer

The best way to prevent breast cancer is regular breast examination. Feel your breasts and this also goes for men. Do not ignore any new changes in your breasts and lumps, pain, swelling, bloody breast milk and whatever feels abnormal must not be ignored.
Secondly, women from about the age of 40 years should have regular breast examination and tests like mammogram. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer are at particularly high risk.

Prostate cancer


This affects only men and often men in the late 50’s. There is a blood test for prostate cancer and men above 40 years of age are encouraged to do the test. Then, visit a urologist occasionally for a proper prostate examination. This requires a finger in the anus to feel the prostate and ensure it is small, nice and smooth. It could be a life-saver.

Bowel cancer

Surveillance using flexible sigmoidoscopy or a full colonoscopy is prescribed for people over the age of 50 years. Male or female. Anyone can have the test especially those who notice the following problems which can all be early signs of bowel cancer:
1: Blood in the stool
2: Mucus in the stool
3: A change in bowel habits
4: Unexplained weight loss
5: Extreme tiredness of no real cause
Final word
What can one say?
You are on your own when it comes to cancer in Nigeria.

But, it does not have to be like this!

#other images courtesy of:

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