Cancer Control agency and the burden of the disease in Nigeria
Following the plan by the Federal Government to establish a National Agency for Cancer Control, a cancer control advocate, Runcie C.W. Chidebe, writes on the benefits to be derived vis-a-viz the plan by the National Assembly to establish a Cancer Research Centre, which he said Nigeria does not need at this point in time.
On November 18, 2015, the bill for National Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment (Establishment) was presented for second reading and referred to the Committee on Health for legislative action.
On the other hand, on April 11, 2016, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olanrewaju A. Tejuoso, invited stakeholders, including Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and other experts to a public hearing on the bill.
Several stakeholders were at the hearing and several cancer related issues were raised including the dearth of treatment facilities in the country.
Few months ago, the Senate in its wisdom, passed the bill for the establishment of National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, which it believed, will provide a holistic national strategy for cancer management.
The passage of the bill by the Senate is highly commendable, considering that cancer has become what can be best described as a devastating national health, economic and social burden.
By passing this bill into law, the 8th National Assembly under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara has shown its commitment to Nigeria’s healthcare.
However, the questions thus is: Do Nigerians need a research institute on cancer at this point in time? In a country, where only two Radiotherapy machines; one in Usman Danfodio Teaching Hospital, Sokoto and the other in National Hospital Abuja are working, what should really be our priority as a nation?
It is worrisome to note that cancer patients travel from Makurdi to Sokoto and from Yenegoa to Abuja for radiotherapy; and in most instances, when they arrive the facility, the Radiotherapy machine is not in good working condition.
Sometimes, over 30 patients are forced to wait on a queue for many days in order to have their condition checked in the radiotherapy. To say that it is frustrating for the family members of a patient to struggle to raise millions of naira for cancer treatment and they cannot have access to the treatment, is to under estimate the situation.