The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Monday that 41,000 people lost their lives to cancer out of 166, 000 cases recorded in Nigeria last year.
The WHO Nigeria Health Emergency Team Lead, Dr Clement Peter, made the announcement while addressing newsmen as part of activities to commemorate the World Cancer Day at the WHO Headquarters in Abuja.
Peter said that Nigeria might continue to experience a rise in the scourge if stringent measures were not taken by individuals, communities and the Federal Government towards addressing the key drivers of the disease.
He listed some of the key drivers as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diets.
The WHO chief said that the disease could be prevented and the burden reduced, if individuals, families and communities were willing and ready to make the necessary changes to their ways of life.
Peter urged individuals, families and communities to therefore, engage in and adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as eating proper and healthy diets, engaging in appropriate exercises and ensuring routine medical check at all times.
He also urged the populace to ensure proper vaccination against cancer.
“In 2018, we recorded an estimated 166,000 cases of cancer burden in Nigeria and 41,000 deaths.
“The most prevalent types of cancer in the country are breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer.
“This disease is preventable if we as individuals, families and communities make the conscious decision to make healthy lifestyle choices.
“The driving forces of cancer are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating habit and a lack of exercise.
“Alcohol consumption should be reduced. Most of us are busy therefore, we tend to eat fast foods, gain weight and fail to exercise, thereby increasing our chances of developing the disease.
“If we are able to address these issues in our own individual way, the burden of cancer is going to be reduced because the cost of diagnosis and treatment is expensive.
“The Federal Government is doing a lot to introduce and ensure enforcement of policies that will help address disease burden of non-communicable diseases, which cancer is one of.
“We need to support government’s efforts by making better and healthy choices in terms of our diet and exercise.
“The government cannot do it alone. It is the effort we make individually, as families and communities that will help make the change we desire to see.”
He quoted the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in her message to commemorate the World Cancer Day as saying: “A Future without Cancer is within our Individual and Collective Grasp.”
Moeti said that globally, 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths were recorded in 2012 while in 2018, 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths were recorded.
The Regional Director said that if this trend was maintained, the cancer burden in Africa was projected to double from 1,055,172 new cases in 2018 to 2,123,245 cancer cases by 2040.
She said that among the most important challenges facing cancer patients in most African countries were poverty, late and poor cancer diagnosis and a lack of medical cover.
Moeti reiterated the key drivers of the increasing cancer burden in Africa to include tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diets, alcohol use and environmental pollution.
She said that among the factors responsible for the high cancer burden were the absence of widely available information on the early signs and symptoms of cancer, late diagnosis and misdiagnosis.
Moeti listed others to include absence/weak referral system, difficult access to care and treatment, catastrophic costs of treatment and medicines and weak health systems.
She said that only 30 per cent of low-income countries had cancer treatment services, adding that 90 per cent of high-income countries however, could offer the services.
“Significant progress has been achieved in diagnosis and treatment of cancers in high-income countries which has resulted in better prognosis and enhanced survival rates for cancers.
“Sadly, most cancer patients in Africa are diagnosed at a late stage and the prognosis for a positive outcome is lessened even in cases where treatment is available and affordable.”
The regional director charged stakeholders, specifically African governments to create an environment in which cancer risk factors were reduced with citizens maintaining good levels of physical activity and nutrition.
She urged stakeholders to also address current inadequate access to cancer diagnosis and therapies and intensify awareness on cancer from the grassroots to urban communities.
Moeti said that the theme for the 2019 World Cancer Day, “I am and I will” was chosen as a reminder of the important actions that individuals, groups, communities and political leaders could and need to take to reduce the impact of cancer in their lives.