From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
A medical expert, Dr. Abidemi Omonisi, had called for ways to address the barriers confronting cancer patients in accessing treatments so as to reduce deaths and ensure better lives for both patients and survivors.
Dr Omonisi, who is the founding Director of Ekiti Cancer Registry and Chairman of Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), Ekiti State branch, also advised Nigerians to abstain from unhealthy lifestyles and practices that may make them susceptible to develop cancer.
Dr Omonisi made the calls in a statement on Friday, marking the 2022 World Cancer Day with the theme : “Close the Care Gap ”; which he noted was a call challenging assumptions and addressing inequity in cancer care access across the World.
The Consultant Anatomic Pathologist with Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital Ado-Ekiti, revealed that this year’s World Cancer Day also marks the first year of a new three-year campaign centred on the issue of equity.
He said : ” The first year of the ‘Close the Care Gap’ campaign is all about understanding and recognising the inequities in cancer care around the globe. It’s about having an open mind, challenging assumptions and looking at the hard facts.
“Inequity in cancer care costs lives. People who seek cancer care hit barriers at every turn.
“Income, education, location and discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and lifestyle are just a few of the factors that can negatively affect care.
“The gap affects everyone, including you and your loved ones. These barriers are not set in stone. They can be changed.
“This is the year to question the status quo and help reduce stigma; to listen to the perspectives of the people living with cancer and their communities and let those live experiences guide our thoughts and actions.
“That’s how we can begin to imagine a better way of doing things and to build a fairer vision of the future—a future where people live healthier lives and have better access to health and cancer services, no matter where they are born, grow, age, work or live.
“We know that every single one of us has the ability to make a difference, large or small, and that together we can make real progress in reducing the global impact of cancer.”
Ststing why the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) on 4th February, 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer in Paris started to mark World Cancer Day on every 4th February of each year, Dr Omonisi said : “”the main goal of marking World Cancer Day is to provide a platform for researchers, health care professionals, patients, governments, industries, non- governmental organizations, individuals and the media to build an invincible alliance against cancer and its greatest allies which are fear, ignorance and complacency.”
He further stated that on World Cancer Day, people and organizations around the world unite to raise awareness about cancer and work to make it a global health priority.
The Cancer expert who is also a member of the Nigerian National System of Cancer Registries (NSCR), Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja and Research Committee Member of African Cancer Registry Network (AFRCN) stated that “Cancer is now a major public health problem worldwide and one of the leading causes of death globally.
“The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) new estimates on the global cancer burden, indicating that it has risen to 19.3 million cases and 10 million cancer deaths in 2020.The IARC estimates that globally, 1 in 5 people develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 men and 1 in 11 women die from the disease. These new estimates suggest that more than 50 million people are living within five years of a past cancer diagnosis. Ageing populations globally and socio-economic risk factors remain among the primary factors driving this increase.
“we are all affected one way or the other by cancer. We have relatives, friends, colleagues, members of our various communities who have died, diagnosed and even treated for cancer.”.
He noted that we have the power to reduce its impacts on ourselves, the people we love and the wider world.
He called for personal commitment of people whenever they may be residing around the world to help reduce the global burden of cancer through healthy eating, physical activity, limiting or quitting alcohol, knowing about signs and symptoms of cancer and early detection, sharing stories about their cancer experience, support cancer patients and survivors with physical and emotional impacts, dispel rumours and myths that lead to stigma and discrimination against people with cancer in some communities, encourage schools, and work places to improve nutrition, physical activity and no smoking policies that help people adopt healthy habits.
The cancer expert called on government, leaders to commit adequate resources to reduce cancer deaths and provide better quality of life for patients and survivors.
He highlighted some of the causes of cancer as cigarette smoking; infections such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C, Human Papilloma Virus ( HPV); genetic factor; artificial ultraviolet radiations; undue exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays particularly by Albinos; chemicals such as complex hydrocarbons, aromatic amines and certain heavy metals contained in some soaps used as skin bleaching soaps and some herbicides and pesticides.
He cautioned farmers to strictly adhere to the necessary precautionary measures when using herbicides and pesticides in their farms.
Dr. Omonisi also disclosed that Ekiti Cancer Registry has made tremendous contribution in reducing the global cancer burden through the provision of high quality data for the publication of Cancer in Nigeria, Cancer in Sub –Saharan Africa Vol.III, data from the registry was used by Ekiti State Ministry of Health in 2021 as the basis for the development of the recently drafted Ekiti Cancer Control Plan & Policy, used by researchers for publication of articles on cancer in both local and international journals and just few weeks ago, the registry contributed data for the publication of Cancer in Five Continents by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),Lyon France.
The Cancer Researcher and the Principal Investigator of Transatlantic Prostate Cancer Familial Project (CaPTC) Ekiti State, stated that cancer researches on prostate, breast, gastrointestinal and cervical cancers are currently on-going in the state.
He commended the Federal Government of Nigeria for establishing and funding the Cancer Health Fund (CHF) as this will go a long way in closing the cancer care gap through reduction in the burden of treating cancer in the country.
He urged all stakeholders to be committed in bringing the current cancer burden to a barest minimum.