Prevalence of breast cancer in Nigeria is giving experts concerns. One in every four women is daily coming down with this terminal disease. In this
piece, JOYCE REMI- BABAYEJU examines the causes and what majority of women are not doing right regarding this deadly disease.


Mrs. Angela Akpan, a 35 year old mother
of three lovely children died because she was
diagnosed late of breast cancer infection.
According to her husband, Mr. John Akpan,
who spoke to Nigerian Pilot, neither him
nor his late wife knew that she could ever be
afflicted by such a terminal disease. Today
Mr. John Akpan is a widower and his three
children motherless.
Before Mrs. John died, she was a budding
career woman, wife and active worker in
the church. For almost three years, Angela
had been visiting different doctors and
undergoing various tests to know what the
cause of her illness was, Mr. John said.
In the cause of looking for solution for her
ailment, Angela and her husband John also
visited various healing and prayer homes
for treatment and counselling, but all to
no avail. When Angela was diagnosed of
breast cancer, she intensified treatment but
it was too late. Unfortunately, she died a
month ago while undergoing chemotherapy
treatment at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Another woman, Mrs. Judith Okeke
who spoke with our correspondent on
her admission bed while undergoing
chemotherapy treatment at the National
Hospital lamented that the cost of treating
breast cancer is too much. How did Mrs.
Okoke get to know that she is suffering from
breast cancer?
She said, ‘’I didn’t know because it was
not painful but by chance my hand touched
my armpit, I felt a lump and I rushed to the
hospital. Before now, I have spent so much
money trying the cause of my illness.’’
The dilemma women with breast cancer
patients are facing in the country is that there
are not enough machine to go round for
treatment of the hundreds of patients across
the country. Okeke who said that that was
the third treatment she was getting lamented
that most of the machine in Nigeria are not
good. ‘’They are not working’’, she said.
‘’The machine in Ibadan and Lagos are
not good so people are too much here at
the National Hospital, Abuja. Whenever the
machine is overworked, it breaks down and
people would go back home after spending
so much money. But rumours have it that
the machine in Ibadan is under repairs but
we are not too sure’’, she said.
People are suffering. In this hospital there
should be about three machines. People
waiting for their turn sometimes sleep on
the ground, waste money without getting
treatment and go back home frustrated.

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These women are among the hundreds of
women suffering breast cancer and related
diseases. Infact, statistics shows that more
women are presenting with breast cancers
due to change in lifestyle and eating habits.
Hundreds and thousands of women in
Nigeria are daily being diagnosed of breast
cancer and statistics is showing that the
growing number of women with the ailment
is quite alarming, doctors reveal.
An expert in radiography and oncology
at the Department of Radiography and
Oncology at the Lagos University Teaching
Hospital, Professor Aderemi Tajudeen
Ajekigbe, recently disclosed that two million
cases of cancers are recorded in Nigeria yearly
with 100,000 new cases recorded annually.
Despite the prevalence of breast cancer
with statistics showing that one out of four
women are developing breast cancer, the
International Cancer Centre along Airport
Road in Abuja is yet to take –off. And for the
reason of inadequate radiotherapy treatment
machines and lack of operation of the cancer
centre, most patients tend to go outside the
country for treatment. This further intensifies
the reason for medical tourism by Nigerians.
Dr. Rasaq Olusegun, chief consultant
radiotherapist and oncologist, National
Hospital in an exclusive interview with
Nigerian Pilot in his office at the hospital
confirmed that there is increase in the
incidence of breast cancer now in Nigeria for
various reasons such as change in lifestyle and

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traditional values.
He said secondly, there is an increase in the
number of young patients having breast cancer.
‘’The reason for that we are still studying. It
could be change in eating attitude, change in
environment and other thing. We cannot say
specifically the cause but we do know that over
a long period of time, our diets have changed
These days, women have to do a lot of things
to be protective of breast cancer. ‘’Things
like early marriage; breast feeding must be
revisited because we are losing all these things
now. People are marrying much later in life.
If you get married at age 18 or 19 and start to
have children like four, five, six children your
chances of breast cancer is reduced. These days
this is no more available because people are
getting married in their 30s, 40s and because of
the pressure of work they hardly breastfeed for
substantial length of time’’, the cancer expert
According to Dr Olusegun other risk factors
to breast cancer is heredity, which means that
it also runs in the family but people don’t take
cognisance of it. If a mother has breast cancer
the children also must be at alert by checking
themselves regularly because of likelihood of
getting it later in life.
And what is WHO standard for provision
of a radiography machine to patients? “We
don’t have enough but by WHO standard, we
should have about 400 radiography machine
scattered all over the country but right now,
there are only six radiotherapy machines in
the country and only two are working , one in
Sokoto and the other here in Abuja”, Olusegun
‘’Right now, it is grossly inadequate. If we
have six machines in one single centre it is not
too much, if you go to other African countries
there some centres where they have about six
According to the onocologist, Nigeria is
operating far below the WHO standard. He
said, ‘’No we don’t have enough radiotherapy

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machines, what we have are like we don’t
have. The minimum that we need in the
country is about 40-50 machines all round
the country. We have just about six in the
country and out of this six only two are
working in Sokoto State and remaining
four are in Lagos, Ibadan, Benin and Enugu
He said that each of the cancer treatment
centres should have about 3-4 machines
whereby if one is faulty the rest will be
working and there won’t be disruption of
The challenge hospitals face now is
most machines have packed up so when
the single one in use has problem, all the
patients have to go elsewhere. And also
the late presentation of patients because a
lot of them come to the hospital one to two
months to death constitutes major problems.
Doctors say that another problem breast
cancer patients encounter is that not many
of them can shoulder the cost and again
that most people go to different types of
doctors who are not oncologists thereby
complicating their illnesses.
The cost is treating breast cancer is
not cheap because the cost of surgery,
radiotherapy, chemotherapy could be as
high as N250, 000, radiotherapy is about
N100, 000- N150, 000, experts say. There is
type of breast cancer that you can treat with
chemotherapy and there a type that can
be treated with N5-N6 million and it is no
respecter of persons. It could afflict a market
woman who is the breadwinner, the doctor
told this Correspondent.
In this regard, government should act
fast to save the teeming number of women,
mothers and young girls daily coming
down with this lethal disease. And also
government could go a step further by
increasing the number of cancer treatment
machines to WHO recommendation and
also offer financial subsidy to indigent