Group Laments Lack of Working Radiotherapy Cancer Treatment Machine in South-South Nigeria

Project PINK BLUE Health & Psychological Trust Centre in commemoration of September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month has called on the Ministry of Niger Delta and all other policymakers to save the lives of south-south people impacted by cancer.

Cancer is now a critical public health problem in Nigeria, with 115,950 new cases and 70,327 cancer deaths in 2018 and 102,079 new cases of cancer and 72,000 cancer deaths in 2012. Comparatively cancer incidence and deaths are on the increase in Nigeria (World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)). 

In Nigeria, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death, whereas breast is the first and cervical cancer the second. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Nigerian men with 13,078 new cases (which is 29.1%) and 5,806 deaths in 2018. On a daily basis, at least 15 men die of Prostate cancer in Nigeria.

According to Runcie C.W. Chidebe, Executive Director of Project PINK BLUE, There is no single working radiotherapy cancer treatment machine in the whole of South-South of Nigeria.

According to him, “If a woman who live in Yenegoa gets a breast cancer diagnosis, she may need to travel to Sokoto to get radiotherapy treatment. If a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer in Okirika, he may need to travel to Ibadan or Enugu for radiotherapy treatment and a young boy diagnosed with childhood cancer will have to travel to Abuja or Zaria for radiotherapy treatment. 

“This is a shame, that a region that produces the greatest resource for the country does not have one single radiotherapy machine for effective cancer treatment. We are calling on the Ministry of Niger Delta and all stakeholders to fix this and give cancer patients in South-South Nigeria a second chance at life.

“If the issue of cancer is not immediately placed in the front burner of our national, regional and state health plan, we will continue to lose our human resources: fathers, mentors, brothers, sisters, and friends at such a time when they are most needed. The time is now, for us to ameliorate the pains of cancer patients” Chidebe added.

He further noted that affordability of prostate cancer treatment is a huge burden in Nigeria, although the cost of treating prostate cancer is low relatively or comparatively to breast cancer, adding that diagnosis of prostate cancer could cost N147,000 to N152,000, a surgery could cost N350,000 to NN950,000, twenty five to thirty sessions of chemotherapy could cost N150,000 to N360,000. 

“In total, a patient needs about N1.3million to N3.3million to treat prostate cancer in Nigeria. How many Nigerian men can pay out these kind of money from their pocket to get treated? Many of these men would just decide to stay back at home and die. With the poor national health insurance, it has become more financially stressful to cope with the financial burden of cancer in Nigeria. Very few families can afford to foot the bills of diagnosis, surgery and treatment,” he said.

In a study conducted by Project PINK BLUE, it reported that out of the 1,661 who received the prostate specific antigen test (PSA), a total of 129 men presented with high level PSA scores of 4.0ng/mL, which is 7.8%. The study also shows that most respondents (70%) make out-of-pocket payments for health care services. Only 14.5% and 4.2% are covered by health insurance and their organisations respectively. 

This highlights the challenge facing the Nigerian health care system. With only a few people having access to health coverage, “Our findings reveal that most Nigerians have to pay for essential health services from their pockets as they do not have any health insurance coverage. This as well will slow our push to detect prostate cancer early in men as people may be discouraged from seeking professional health attention given the expected financial burden”, Chidebe added.

Every year, in fulfillment of its mandate to rid Africa of late detection of cancer, Project PINK BLUE involves in cancer campaigns that spread the word about cancer in local communities in Nigeria. Notable amongst the countless campaigns are; the World Cancer Day Walk in Abuja, organized in February every year since 2015, Pink October Walk in Lagos, organized since 2015, Enugu Prostate Cancer Walk organized in 2018, Lagos Prostate Cancer Walk, organized in 2018 supported by ACT Foundation. 

Project PINK BLUE- Health & Psychological Trust Centre is a leading cancer fighting non-governmental organization in Nigeria, last year, they won the prestigious World Cancer Day Spirit Award 2018 at World Cancer Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for their world cancer day advocacy and collaborative spirit.

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