Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

Thousands of Nigerians die every year from cancer. Though deaths are mostly preventable, Nigeria lacks the infrastructure, equipment and health care professionals necessary to treat its cancer victims. Furthermore, the high cost of cancer treatment prevents many Nigerians from seeking it soon enough to cure it. Yet the Nigerian government is improving Nigeria’s cancer treatment and making it easier for Nigerians to access it. This article will reveal the future of cancer treatment in Nigeria by first explaining why so many Nigerians die from cancer, and then listing the solutions that people are proposing and implementing to eradicate it.

Cancer in Nigeria

The World Health Organization identifies cancer as the second leading cause of death around the world. It is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In Nigeria, around 72,000 Nigerians die each year from cancer among the more than 100,000 cancer diagnoses. The two most common, and often treatable, forms of cancer in Nigeria are breast and cervical cancer.

Specifically, Nigerian men suffer from mostly prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nigerian women suffer from mostly breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian women, 71,022, is greater than the number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian men, 44,928.

Reasons for Nigerian Cancer Deaths

First and foremost, many Nigerians are unable to reach physicians who can diagnose and treat their cancer. Additionally, when they are able to get the treatment they need, their cancer is in such an advanced state that any treatment they receive fails to save their lives. Thirdly, Nigeria has not had a national plan to control cancer or a national registry to track trends about who has cancer and where they live for most of its history.

In addition, Nigerians often do not have the money to pay for cancer treatment. On top of this, many Nigerians who suffer from cancer do not receive enough information about cancer to motivate them to seek immediate medical attention.

There are also infrastructure limitations as Nigeria currently only has four functional cancer treatment centers, which is not enough to treat the immense number of Nigerian citizens who suffer from cancer. Furthermore, in a population of more than 200 million, there are only nine radiation therapy machines. At any time, some or all of these machines might be broken, sometimes for months. Nigeria additionally lacks well-equipped treatment centers and an adequate amount of qualified health professionals.

Goals with Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

The current state of cancer treatment in Nigeria might look dreadful, however, Nigerians are making great efforts to improve the care it provides to Nigeria’s cancer victims with the help of partners like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. On April 13, 2015, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health launched the Cancer Control Plan (CCP). This plan sets the course for the Ministry of Health to improve cancer treatment in Nigeria from 2018 to 2022. The goals included in the CCP that Nigeria intends to reach to improve its response to cancer are:

  • ” Increased access to screening and detection of cancer
  • Improved access to quality and cost-effective cancer treatment
  • Improved end-of-life care for patients and their families
  • Increased public awareness about the disease
  • Improved data collection and the process of spreading information
  • Effective coordination of cancer resources for Nigeria”

Progress

A major stepping-stone in the advancement of cancer treatment in Nigeria is the construction of the world-class Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Advanced Cancer Treatment Centre. This facility emerged to ensure that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer are available to many more Nigerians and is equipped with the most innovative cancer therapy solutions from Varian Medical Systems. This facility can treat 100 patients a day and provide more advanced training for 80 health care professionals. Predictions determine that this facility will serve as a model for future cancer research facilities throughout West Africa.

Even though Nigeria has a long way to travel to create a cancer treatment system on par with those of high-income countries like the United Kingdom or Switzerland. The goals listed above will take a great effort to reach. Yet, the fact that Nigeria is already making progress towards advancing its cancer treatment system proves the bright future of cancer treatment in Nigeria is already here.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr