Experts in the medical field have called on the government to stop paying lip service to cancer treatment in the country.
The medical experts made this position known at the 2012 Executive Conference of the African Organisation For Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) at a renowned event that took place at Victoria Island, Lagos recently.
This is the first time the meeting of AORTIC was hosted in Nigeria. The previous one was hosted in South Africa.
Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, is the president of AORTIC. The meeting, according to Prof Adewole, was an avenue for the executives and experts in the medical profession to discuss the activities of the organisation and the challenges of cancer treatment in Nigeria.
In an interview with journalists at the event, Prof.Adewole said, "This is the first time Nigeria is hosting the executive meeting. It is also due to my position as the president of AORTIC which has come a long way but we are not resting on our oars.
We need to address people with cancer report early and have accurate and prompt diagnoses. We want to ensure that Africans with cancers come for treatment and all the infrastructure should be put in place. Also, we want to ensure we put in place methods to prevent cancer and overall, we want to partner with the African Union to eradicate cancer.
As a research organization, we are working with cancer organizations all over. We have a committee which educates and creates awareness. We have been talking with the African Union and they have asked us to submit a blueprint for African leaders conference scheduled for next year"
Prof Adewole stated that Nigeria being a member of AORTIC, will afford the country the opportunity to, "gain ideas, recognition that the country has a lot of potentials. We will bring a lot of goodies to Nigeria and as the most populous African country; we will be the first to benefit.
No country in the world has done enough to fight cancer and that is why there is room to do more. In Nigeria, we need to do more to fight cancer"
Prof Lynette Denny,the Secretary Treasurer of AORTIC and Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Cape Town, in the interview with journalists said "AORTIC has 46 countries in Africa as members.
In the treatment of cancer, Africans are starting to make progress; it is recently that people have begun to realize that cancer is real in Africa.
Other diseases like tuberculosis, HIV, malaria have dominated our health system but now as it stands , we have not made enough progress doing a lot of awareness and many people develop cancer in Africa they die and 22 countries in Africa have no way of treating cancer also they don't have radiation, they don't have chemotherapy and people trained to do surgical operations on cancer so these people who develop cancer. just die. Cancer has the reputation, but if we look at the developed world, many people who had cancer can be cured and there is little of such understanding in Africa because our facilities are very poor and our people are poor.
Prof Denny urged the government to allocate more fund for cancer treatment.
She said "the governments in Africa need to allocate resources to health; investment in their people is as good as investment in the stock market because if your people are healthy, your people will be productive and healthy people will improve the economy of the country. They need to allocate bigger resources of the GDP to health care and specifically for cancer.
Every government must have a national cancer care programme.
Also there is need to have a strategy for early detection of cancer and getting prompt treatment. We must work to improve diagnosis and treat cancer.
Countries that don't have such treatment machine should ensure that treatment facilities are bought and put in place.
Much money is being spent on security and buying AK47 guns but it is better to buy radiation machine than buy AK47 guns. We need to have the political will - there is a lot of money in Africa and we need to put this money where it will be useful to the people. We need to also have a palliative care measure in our country.
People with cancer suffer terrible pain and die . There are many countries which do not have morphine to treat pain. We need to be more humane and make sure people die in dignity" Prof Denny said .
Also speaking, Prof. Serigne Gueye, the immediate past president of AORTIC, also stated that death from cancer will continue to rise if proper and urgent measures are not taken to halt the disease.
"AORTIC has played a very big role in creating awareness for cancer and is the most prominent cancer organisation in Africa. We have done a lot about cancer with the government and with the African Union. Working with cancer experts in the diaspora and bringing their services to bear in Africa.
The cancer situation in Africa is just like the health issues in Africa.
We have health system dominated by communicable diseases like TB,but our governments have been taking care of the big burden of communicable diseases.
In the next decade,cancer will be more prominent than HIV,TB and malaria combined.
Cancer prevention should start with persons, the community and the government building awareness of the prevention by controlling tobacco use, alcohol use and other HIV prevention. There is also need for early detection of cancer since it is affordable at this stage.
Also there is need for collaborative efforts from other organisations networking and partnership -everybody working together we will fight cancer"
AORTIC was established in the 1980's and was resuscitated in 2003 with 70 members which has increased to about 800 members ; organising bi-annual conferences which bring medical experts in the diaspora together to collaborate with their counterparts in Africa to address medical challenges in Africa.