World Cancer Day


February 4 every year, the global cancer community commemorates World Cancer Day (WCD) to inspire greater awareness of cancer and action to better prevent, detect and treat the disease. WCD 2022 marks the first year of a new three-year campaign centred on the issue of equity with the campaign theme ‘Close the care gap’. This year’s campaign raises awareness about the lack of equity in cancer care.

Cancer remains a major cause of geographic, racial, social and gender inequality. According to the WHO, cancer ranks as a leading cause of death and an important barrier to increasing life expectancy in every nation. A 2019 study found cancer to be the first or second leading cause of death before the age of 70 years in 112 of 183 countries. In 2020, there were about 19.3 million new cases and 10 million cancer deaths worldwide. Sadly, 70% of cancer deaths occur in developing nations like Nigeria due to lack of access to optimal care. Nigeria is currently estimated to have 233,911 cancer cases, with 124,815 new cases and 78,899 cancer deaths, yearly.

Without bold action, an estimated 28.4 million new global cancer cases would occur in 2040, a 47% rise from 2020! The relative magnitude of the projected increase is highest in low Human Development Index (HDI) nations (95%), including Nigeria. This projected increase in cancer incidence will be paralleled by increases in mortality rates, unless resources are placed within health services to appropriately treat and manage the growing cancer cases.

A Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) is the only institution that can optimally tackle all stages and types of cancer. The CCC is not a hospital with a radiotherapy machine. Rather, it is a stand-alone tertiary health institution, with all its units focused solely on cancer care. The CCC houses first-class cancer research, preventive, curative and palliative care in one place resulting in better outcomes across a range of measures – including, most importantly, cancer survival.

Sadly, whilst India has over 200 CCC – most of which are philanthropy-funded non-profit / non-governmental institutions, Nigeria has none.

Some African nations that have CCC include Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Sudan. Instead, Nigerians now spend over $1 billion dollars on foreign treatment annually, an amount sufficient to establish 20 CCC every year. Unfortunately, most Nigerians who go abroad for treatment end up dying because of late diagnosis and delay in intervention. Moreover, unforeseen situations (such as the COVID-19 restriction) may make it impossible to go on medical tourism, even if one could afford it.

.Dr. Abia Nzelu


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