The First Lady of Ondo State, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu Akeredolu has advocated that population-based screening of breast cancer using Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) be adopted as a policy and offered at all primary health care facilities, nationwide as a way of improving cancer outcomes and patients’ survival.
Addressing a press conference put together by Coalition Against Cancer at the NUJ Press Centre, Akure in commemoration of World Cancer Day celebration, Mrs. Akeredolu said if in Ondo State, CBE services are offered at all primary health centers, there is a high chance of covering 80% of the target population since 85% of pregnant women in the state receive Ante Natal Care at health facilities and up to 74% have institutional delivery.
Mrs. Akeredolu who said significant progress have been made in understanding risk factors associated with breast cancer over the years observed that in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) established convincing evidence of the link between the consumption of red meat and cancer and a year later, linked being overweight and obesity to eight new cancer sites.
Another major progress according to her was the adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which was put into force in 2005 to protect public health and reduce the demand for tobacco and later followed by some breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
Mrs. Akeredolu while expressing worry that Nigeria ranks amongst countries with poorest cancer care and control system said it was rather unfortunate that clinical breast examination and Radiotherapy which are highly cost effective in treatment are still not generally available at the primary health care level in Nigeria which is in sharp contrast to other countries like Morocco and India which have such services at their primary health facilities.
“Although Nigeria has a national cancer plan, it is yet to be implemented and domesticated at the state and local government level. The federal government is yet to commence any routine based campaign to raise awareness on any form of cancer.
Majority of the awareness creation on cancer are organized by non-governmental organisations working around cancer. Population based cancer registries are equally almost non-existent, making it quite impossible to understand the cancer needs in the country”, she further stressed.
Mrs. Akeredolu also used the opportunity to stress that religious leaders must be actively engaged in the fight saying that through Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), its team of survivors called “Team Survivors Nigeria” have been providing psychosocial support to breast cancer patients and that government must evaluate the operational health system and re-model it to ensure accessibility, affordability and quality in order to curb loss to follow-up.
The chairman of the Coalition Against Cancer, Dr. Katung Abah in his address said the essence of the celebration was to mark the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day and create awareness on the need to have personal commitment towards eradicating the disease.
Dr. Katung who identified high level of poverty, late presentations of the disease at the hospital as some of the factors that militates against cancer care however called on the government to draw up genuine and implementable policies for cancer care as well as provide adequate training and retraining for cancer care specialists among others.
He also used the opportunity to stress the importance of prevention as it is always better than securing a cure for the disease.
Earlier in his welcome address, the state chairman of NUJ, Mr. Adetona Aderoboye while applauding the initiative said adequate publicity will be given to the coverage of the 3-days activities.
The Coalition Against Cancer in Ondo State is made up of eleven formidable organization that are committed to do the impossible and bring cancer down to its knees in Ondo State. The theme for this year’s celebration is: “I Am and I Will”.
In a chat with journalists, one of the members of the Coalition, Mrs. Olabisi Omolona applauded the initiative saying this year’s celebration is unique as free screening for both cervical and prostrate cancer would be done during the week long program of activities.