According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer happens to be the second leading source of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths as of 2018. However, even with these given statistics, a lot of people are still ignorant and have refused to be educated. Most Nigerians believe that cancer “is not their portion” and that it can be treated spiritually or with the use of medicinal herbs.
We stressed in our cancer report “the socioeconomic impact of cancer in Nigeria” the chronic lack of cancer research and information in the nation. Due to this lack of data, there is a gap in cancer care in Nigeria. The lack of data makes it difficult to empower stakeholders with evidence on trends, which has led to complexity in informing and protecting Nigerians.
Moreover, the lack of data has made it problematic in controlling cancer, such that things like prevention, early detection and diagnosis/treatment are hard to determine. This limitation has affected the nation and has made the quality of cancer control truncated.
Now that leaves us with a question how do we solve this problem?
Awareness is crucial, and the only way you can enlighten the public about cancer is by having substantial evidence to back up findings. Therefore, data is essential. With data, efforts at combating the scourge of cancer can be strategically directed.
The following are some of the importance of data in improving cancer care in Nigeria; increase awareness, increase cancer advocacy, social protection and the establishment of more functional foundations and NGOs. With the availability of mortality data on cancer, people would become enlightened about the disease, and this would significantly increase the chances of early detection.
Still, on findings in our cancer report, it was highlighted that the case of most cancers occurs at the last stage in Nigeria. The level at which it has begun to spread and requires management by radiotherapy. The lack of information available causes this.
However, this would not occur if information was available from the onset. Cancer patients will be able to detect in its early stage, and proper medical attention will be sought. There is a high chance of completely removing the cancerous cells exposed at the initial beginning.
Secondly, the buildup of data on cancer research can help increase cancer advocacy. Advocacy for cancer control is a strategic process that is designed to influence governments, decision-makers and other stakeholders using evidence, to reduce the global cancer burden.
Here are ways advocates can help to enlighten the public;
• Provide care to those living with cancer.
• Raise public awareness about cancer and related issues.
• Advance cancer research.
• Improve the quality of cancer care.
• Address legislative and regulatory issues that affect cancer care and research.
Nevertheless, from our cancer study, we noticed a widespread ignorance of the risk factors of different cancers. Therefore, the government must invest in improving cancer education, supplemented by increased and honest civil society efforts.
Thirdly, information on cancer brings about social protection. It is vital to institute social protection for cancer patients, the most critical of which is included under NHIS medical plan. This is protection regarding access to opportunities, and for those in employment, to fair treatment. Presently, due to the lack of evidence on cancer research in Nigeria, there is less assistance or aid from national bodies, NHIS and even the workplace.
Lastly, cancer awareness/ education helps to have more functional cancer foundations and NGOs. From our research, we found that a lot of foundations and NGOs, especially in Lagos and Abuja are no longer in operation. However, we were able to interview Medicaid and St. Cyril cancer foundation as these firms are still in business. These organizations provide the public with adequate information required to fight cancer related disease. Foundations such as Medicaid seek to support cancer patients, promote cancer awareness and drive community cancer campaigns for medically underserved Nigerians.
In conclusion, it is essential as a nation to invest in adequate data for cancer. This way, it will be easy to control the ailment and provide epidemiological research to the right authorities, which will ultimately reduce the burden of the disease.
- The Socioeconomic Impact of Cancer in Nigeria, Survey report (2018) website
- Being a Cancer Advocate, approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board; https://www.cancer.net/research-and-advocacy/patient-advocates/being-cancer-advocate, (accessed 22th July, 2019)
- Cancer by World Health Organisation (WHO)https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer (accessed 23 July, 2019)
- The Top 10 Causes of Death, World Health Organisation; https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death (accessed 23 July, 2019)