23 August 2018

Nigeria: Taming the Scourge of Cancer

Photo: The Herald
Govt rolls out anti-cancer vaccine in schools (file photo).

Owner Management Program, OMP 21, recently took the cancer awareness campaign to the less privileged and provided screening and support for established cases. Peace Obi reports

Feeding on widespread ignorance about the disease, cancer of all forms has continued to wreak havoc on humanity, prematurely cutting down destinies and dreams. But a group has taken steps to roll back the cancer menace.

The recent convergence of the 21st class of Owner Manager Program, also known OMP 21, of the Lagos Business School, at the Upbeat Recreation Centre in Lekki area of Lagos, was not the usual hangout of friends and acquaintances. It was the gathering of people of like-minds in pursuit of a dream so dear to their hearts. During the two-week activities, the busy executives dedicated themselves to creating cancer awareness, enlightening people about its prevention and management as well as providing screening and support for those already diagnosed with one type of cancer or the other. The programme was concluded with a health walk and talk that was also open to the general public.

The health talk, which held immediately after a walk that took off from Upbeat Centre via Admiralty Way through Lekki Ikoyi toll into Ikoyi and back to Upbeat, had doctors, other medical personnel and fitness experts in attendance. The burden of curbing the ravaging force of cancer on the society weighed heavily on the minds of these concerned associates. To them, cancer should no longer kill anyone, particularly as the world shifts from curative to the preventive type of medicine. Thus, the public information sharing and rigorous awareness campaign they embarked on with the aim of making available to the general public, the right and proper information for the management and prevention of cancer.

Statistics

Revealingly, statistics have shown that over 14.1 million new cases of cancer are recorded worldwide every year. About eight million people die from cancer annually; of that number, four million die prematurely, that is between the ages of 30 and 69. Also, the first independent national research on cancer by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) revealed that cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases annually.

Apparently heeding the clarion call made through the 2018 World Cancer Day theme, "We can, I can", OMP 21 joined the league of global efforts in curbing the cancer scourge on the society. For two weeks the alumni association set aside every engagement to fight for the lives and wellbeing of others, especially the less privileged.

They reached out to the unreached and took the campaign to the streets, motor parks, marketplaces, schools, among others, to educate people on the need to imbibe healthy lifestyle, avoid risk factors, and run regular checks. The group also provided support to some established cases.

Support the Less Privileged

OMP 21 President Bukunola Gadzama in her speech said the events were put in place to ensure that people learn to keep fit, fight and prevent diseases. She noted that cases of cancer and other diseases tended to increase due to ignorance, lack of awareness, an unhealthy lifestyle, among others.

According to the real estate manager, the programme was meant for everybody, even though they concentrated on the less privileged who could not afford cancer screening. She said, "Two weeks ago, we started running free cancer screening for prostate and breast cancer for both men and women. We went to schools, motor parks, and other places. We also worked with some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who already have people in line that they feel will go for such screenings. We also went to motor parks to talk to the people about the need to start living a healthier life."

Speaking on the two major attitudes observed among the class of persons the awareness campaign was taken to, Gadzama said, "The first set is the 'I don't want to know attitude'. Some feel that if you tell them that they have cancer, it is like a death sentence. But we let them know that it is not and that there are many illnesses going around that can be managed. And that the individual can still live long if detected early and managed very well.

"Another set of people of are the 'okay, how do I run the treatment? Even if there is anything, I can't even afford the scan, how could I then afford the treatment?"

Declaring the group's readiness to support people who tested positive to any type of cancer to get proper treatment, the president said, "For now, we are going to help two people. We will also link up with people who are interested. We are going to stand with whoever that tested positive throughout the two weeks of screening and make sure they get adequate treatment. Support is not all about money. It is about counselling, it is about holding somebody's hand, it is about helping the person know how to manage these things. That is basically what we are here to do."

Call for Regular Check-ups

Speaking to the audience, Dr. Jimi Arogundade said cancer occurred when a cell grows without the control of the body's mechanisms, adding that cancer is a malignant tumour that spreads and kills fast. He said that whatever kind of cancer it may be, it is important that it be detected through screening. He therefore, called on people to go for regular medical check-ups.

Stressing that there is no fixed cause for cancer, Arogundade noted that there were things that could predispose one to it. He said, "When we talk about cancer, we talk about risk factors because the truth is that one cannot actually pinpoint the cause. So, we talk about risk factor like your gene which is not modifiable, but there are other things you can correct, enhance as you grow older that would reduce the risk. Your diet is a very, very important factor almost in all kinds of cancer. What you eat can actually kill you! So, you need to know what you eat, it is a modifiable factor."

Continuing, he said, "One of the simplest screenings you can ever do for breast cancer is breast self-examination. Every woman must know how to do it. If you have a family history of breast cancer, especially in your first relatives, it is highly important that you screen yourself, especially for women who are of productive age and those above 40 years. Because the trend right now in the world now is to move from curative medicine to preventive type of medicine, we encourage screening, self-breast examination, indulge in health-promoting behaviour, visit the doctor regularly."

Fitness as Key

Addressing the audience, an award-winning actress, Kate Henshaw, said it was very important for people to take care of their health and become fit. According to Henshaw, being fit is not the same thing as being skinny or having muscles. She said, "I am talking about your overall mental, physical and even emotional well-being. When you are wholesome in your mind, you will be healthy to work for that money. It is anti-progress to work hard for your money and use the money to cure yourself.

"I am glad that the organisers as leaders and owners of their businesses thought it wise to put this together because we are very sedentary in Nigeria. We sit in the office, at home, in the office, in traffic. We don't get up and move, but when we travel abroad, we see how the other people live. They walk, they run, they cycle and skip. They do all sorts of activities. That keeps you alert in your mind. Exercise is very important for your mental wellbeing.

"The doctor will tell you. Don't even wait until it is too late. Don't wait until doctors tell you that you need to lose weight or you need to eat healthily or even cut down the oil and alcohol. We don't need to do that, we have to be preventive rather than curative."

Adequate Knowledge

Speaking also, another member of the OMP 21 and Managing Director, Recon PDC Ltd., Temitope Akinyemi, called on Nigerians never to mistake stress for fitness. He noted that the spread of cancer had been on the increase because often times, people lacked the basic knowledge needed to aid them in taking right and necessary steps for prevention. He noted, "Cancer is not like malaria or typhoid that weighs you down when it starts. It is not a physical growth that you can easily see. Medical experts call it maligned tumour, it grows abnormally and it spreads. So the earlier you nip it in the bud, the better. A lot of people walk around not knowing that they have this disease inside of them until it gets to a very alarming stage before they find out. You need to check the body before the body checks you."

A public relations expert, Mr. Bolaji Abimbola, said the alumni association was deliberate in choosing to raise the consciousness of people concerning cancer. According to him, OMP 21 believes that knowledge is key in the fight against cancer and in getting people to be conscious of their health. He said that when people are armed with knowledge, spread of cancer would be reduced.

"We want to encourage people to go for regular screening because we believe that some of these issues can be nipped in the bud if it is detected early. If you discover you have an ailment, take care of it on time. Cancer should not kill anybody anymore because there are opportunities for it to be detected and if detected on time it can be stopped," Abimbola stated.

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