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.

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