World Cancer Day is a chance to raise our collective voices in the name of improving general knowledge around cancer and dismissing misconceptions about the disease. From a global level, we are focusing our messaging on the four myths above. In addition to being in-line with our global advocacy goals, these overarching myths leave a lot of flexibility for members, partners and supporters to adapt and expand on for their own needs.
‘Debunk The Myths’
he World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen a worthy theme for this year’s celebration of the World Cancer Day: “Debunk the myths”. Myths about cancers are legion and their effects have serious cultural and policy implications. The irony is that leukaemia and cervical cancer, like some other cancers, are 100 per cent preventable, if detected early.
WHO says that cancer accounts for 13 per cent of all deaths registered globally and 70 per cent of that figure occurs in middle and low-income countries like Nigeria. Globally, it is estimated that there will be 21 million new cases of cancer this year and 13 million cancer deaths by the year 2030. An estimated 80,000 cancer deaths occur in Nigeria every year and 10 Nigerians die every hour. Leukaemia (blood cancer), one of the cancers that are now curable, still posts a death ratio of 4 in 5 in the country! A number of other cancers similarly kill effortlessly. Nigerian women die daily from breast and cervical cancers. Prostate cancer is a mortal nemesis for our men. Liver and colorectal cancers are common in both men and women, while our children are vulnerable to Burkit’s lymphoma and leukaemia.
A serious government would have looked at how to stop the about 10,000 cancer deaths and 250,000 new cases recorded yearly in the country and fund research, treatment and advocacy of the “giant killer”. Cancers should not be death sentences, as there are proven ways to prevent and cure many of them. There are vaccines that can prevent some infections linked to cancer including hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer, and human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not among the 17 per cent of African countries said to have sufficiently funded cancer control programmes. Less than half of all countries in the world have functional plans to prevent the disease, provide treatment and care for patients; Nigeria is also missing in the league.
In Nigeria, many still see cancer as a disease of the wealthy, the elderly and developed countries. Many sufferers of the disease still regard it as their fate and, as such, a death sentence. But cancer is not just a health issue; it has far-reaching social and economic implications. We are aware that most cancer treatment centres in Nigeria today lack modern diagnostic equipment for detection and dialysis of the condition. There is lack of awareness on the disease, especially the causative factors, preventative measures, likely treatment options and facilities where such treatments are available. One third of most common cancers can be prevented through the right lifestyle and public policies.
The public should be sensitized on predisposing lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, obesity, lack of exercise and exposure to carcinogenic products and elements, while access to treatment of cancer should also not be limited to the affluent who can afford chemotherapy. The government should set up a comprehensive cancer control programme, step up nationwide campaigns targeted at reducing the cancer scourge, while getting the support of the states and local governments to banish the scourge from our shores.
To know more about these myths click below:
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