Oncologist has said that with over 80 percent of Nigerian cancer patients paying out of pocket, there is the need for the incoming administration of General Mohammadu Buhari to include cancer care under the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, has been stressed.
Making the call to the President-elect recently in Lagos during the media flag-off of Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre’s 2105 Light Lagos Pink, Consultant, Clinical and Radiation oncologist, Dr. Omolola Salako, said many Nigerians have died of cancer due to lack of money to pay for their treatment.
Salako who is Executive Director of the Support Centre, said the only way more Nigerians will survive cancer, particularly the indigent, is for the new government to implement cancer care under the NHIS.
She argued that if cancer care is accommodated by the NHIS, Nigeria would increase cancer survival rates as well as reduce out of pocket payment by 30- 40 percent.
“We are not saying government should take care of the entire bill but they should take care of the chunk of the cost of treatment. If the patient pays for surgery, government can pay for radiotherapy. If the patients pay for chemotherapy, government can pay for target therapy. There should be a shared formula. That way more women will access care and they will have a better chance of surviving,” she added.
Meanwhile Salako identified challenges of cancer care in Nigeria to include; lack of a comprehensive cancer centre, late presentation by patients, diagnosis and cost of care.
“Cost of cancer care is outrageous. Government needs to step in if we want our patients to survive. We need a comprehensive cancer centre. Cancer is killing more people in the developing world than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.”
She said that cancer has already surpassed infectious disease as the leading cause of death in many of these countries.
“One-third of these cancers are preventable, and an additional one-third of cancers can be detected and treated while there is still hope. Breast cancer is the most common cancer and principal cause of cancer deaths Breast cancer accounts for 27,304 new cases and 13,960 deaths annually. Over 80 percent of breast cancer patients present in stage III and IV.”
Speaking on Sebeccly 2015 Light Lagos Pink, Salako said the state-wide collaborative campaign seeks to promote breast awareness, initiate action among women as well as raise funds for indigent cancer patients.
Launched in 2014, the campaign is targeting to support 400 breast cancer patients as well as building the first ever cancer survivorship centre in Nigeria where recently diagnosed women can go and access information on how to cope with the disease. The centre will promote survivorship information and access to cancer care.
A Patron of Sebeccly, Prof. Josbert Duncan, dismissed the insinuation that breast cancer is a death sentence saying, “It is only a death sentence when a patient pronounces it to be.”
“Cancer is not a death sentence; early diagnosis of cancer saves life. What is a death sentence is over drinking. Over eating is a death sentence. Lack of exercise is a death sentence.”
Lamenting that cancer care in Nigeria was not good enough, he said the problem is not because Nigeria or the professionals are incapable but the whole system has been engulfed in corruption. “I am a trustee of African cancer centre. Tinubu and his group gave us land 14 years ago. Government gave us N400 million three or four years ago; a particular minister of health diverted it.”
On her part, Nollywood actress, Chioma- Apotha who is the Ambassador, Light Lagos Pink, urged more breast cancer survivors to speak out as part of efforts to give hope to others.
She explained that the campaign will raise N250 million to build cancer survivorship centre as well support treatments of indigent breast cancer patients.

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