Not long ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer predicted that by 2030, there will be more than 21million new cases of cancer, with 13million cancer deaths every year and majority of the deaths would be recorded in developing countries, including Nigeria. Cancer is one of the leading causes of illness and death worldwide, with approximately 14million new cases and 8.2million deaths in 2012 alone. The number of new cases is expected to rise by 70percent in the next two decades.
In Nigeria, it is estimated that about 100,000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer every year; 80,000 die from various forms of the disease annually, while 10 Nigerians die as a result of the disease every hour. Little wonder then that Nigeria has the 12th lowest life expectancy in the world, and cancer is a major contributor. That no fewer than 40 Nigerian women die every day from breast cancer, one in every hour from cervical cancer, 26 men from prostate cancer every day, about 9,000 from liver cancer with a recorded death of 8,900yearly, shows how debilitating cancer is, with no permanent cure in sight. Cancer remains the number one killer of mankind, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
However, breast cancer is believed to be the most common cancer among women and the second most common cancer overall. Globally, nearly 1.7millionn breast cancer cases were diagnosed in 2012, and unarguably the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in 140 of 184 surveyed countries worldwide while globally, breast cancer figure represents one in four of all cancer in women and since 2008 the incidence has increased by more than 20percent, with about 14percent mortality rate.
Indeed, the statistics should worry all developing countries, including Nigeria, where the disease is prevalent. They are no doubt frightening, notwithstanding that experts say that one third of cancer cases are preventable and additional one third of cancer can be treated if dictated early. Whereas in other clime, breast cancer charities reported a four-fold surge in women enquiring about having their breast removed, sadly enough, here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. Women report cancer cases late because of lack of information, ignorance, exorbitant cost of medical care, stigmatisation, fear of treatment as well as that of treating the side effects.
We therefore advise Nigerians to embrace early and regular cancer screening and testing to curb increasing cases of deaths arising from cancer. We also align with medical advice that women in particular, must make it a habit to always do self breast examination as a crucial preventive measure.
In addition, there is need to promote awareness, initiate action among women to regularly attend breast screening exercises. On its part, government should provide free screening facilities to increase access to cancer care by indigent patients.
Since the procedure for the screening does not take more than five to 10 minutes, more medical practitioners in the primary healthcare centres should be trained and more women encouraged to go for breast and cervical cancer screening every year to prevent untimely deaths. This annual screening will boost chances of early detection and survival, as well as reduce the rate of maternal mortality.
We firmly believe that education remains a key ingredient in the fight against cancer and this must include information on the risk factors, signs and symptoms. We thus call on government and non-governmental organizations, and international agencies to assist Nigeria and indeed Africa in the fight against this dreaded disease.