Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases in Nigeria. An average Nigerian will consider a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. While this may be linked to the debilitating symptoms associated with it, it is also because there are little or no chances of survival based on the country’s healthcare system. In a country of over 170 million people (according to the last census exercise) with an estimated cancer case of 105,000 diagnosed every year, the government’s provision with regards to cancer support and treatment is nothing to write home about. Boasting of ten radiotherapy centres within the country, with only 7 functional radiotherapy machine, it is clear that cancer is not on the list of health priorities for the Nigerian government. This is quite unfortunate given the number of cancer cases recorded in the country annually. An estimated 72 000 patients die annually from cancer-related issues every year.
As with most sectors in the country, the private sectors have stepped up to fill the void created by the government’s negligence. In their little ways, these organizations have created support networks and NGOs whose responsibilities include creating awareness about the different types of cancer, providing coping resources for cancer patients, and raising funds for patients in need of urgent medical attention.
In this article, some of these support networks, and the coping resources for cancer patients in Nigeria will be discussed.
Available Resources and Support Networks for Cancer Patients in Nigeria
The following are some of the functioning private entities that have taken it upon themselves to provide coping resources and support networks for cancer patients in Nigeria.
Nigerian Cancer Society
The Nigerian Cancer Society is a non-profit organization whose objective is to assist in the development of facilities for diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Nigeria, amidst other goals. Established in 1982 in Ibadan, the group has expanded its activities beyond the country’s South-West and now has its head office in the nation’s capital, Abuja. The objectives of the body include;
- to assist in the development of facilities for diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Nigeria
- sensitize the general public on the causes and symptoms of cancer
- carry out medical research and studies on different types of cancer
Being a member of UICC (Union for International Cancer Control), the body has various activities geared towards the support of cancer patients and the eradication of cancer in the country. These activities include
Convening: This refers to the recognition of the days stipulated for different cancer remembrance and celebration. The organization uses these days to create awareness of cancer-related issues and deliberate on ways to ensure adequate care for cancer patients. These convening days include World Cancer Day, World Cancer Congress, World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, and many more.
Other activities include Advocacy, Capacity Building, and thematic research works.
Lakeshore Cancer Center
Lakeshore Cancer Center is an operational medical facility dedicated to treating and managing cancer cases in the country. Founded in Lagos State, the centre is an affiliate to Rosewell Park Cancer Institute in New York, USA. Among many others, the services of the centre include
- Treatment of cancer cases using a team of highly trained medical personnel, including Doctors, Oncologists, Nurses, and others
- Usage of standardized treatment procedures such as Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy according to healthcare standards, with adequate monitoring of side effects
- Performance of surgical procedures for cancer patients when required. These procedures include minor procedures like biopsies, medical part insertions, and major surgeries such as mastectomies, hysterectomies, and many others.
- Pain management, palliative care and supportive care for cancer patients
- Training and retraining of medical personnel on any recent trends in the treatment and management of cancer cases. The center also carries out studies on different types of cancer and how they affect patients.
Renaissance Medical Center
Although this is not a cancer specialist medical outfit, the clinic offers excellent diagnosis, treatment, and management for cancer cases, especially breast cancer and cervical cancer. Established in 2008 and located in Lagos State, the medical centre utilizes ultra-modern pieces of equipment in the diagnosis and treatment of these forms of cancer. It also uses haematological and tissue assays for the treatment of cervical cancer. The centre also carries out awareness and sensitization activities to inform the public, especially females, on the detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer.
Run For a Cure Africa
This body is a non-governmental organization whose activities are geared towards the eradication of breast cancer in Nigeria. The organization aims to achieve this by removing the societal stigma on breast cancer patients, providing affordable breast cancer screenings, and ensuring access to quality breast care.
Although based in Lagos, Nigeria, the body’s support network spread across Africa, as it hopes to change the breast cancer narrative in the continent. The organization funds its activities from the proceedings of sports activities, such as races, marathons, and other activities.
St. Cyril Treatment Foundation
This is a non-profit organization geared towards boosting the delivery of cancer treatment in Nigeria. The organization provides support for cancer patients through fundraising for holistic care and treatment of the patients.
The foundation ensures the achievement of its objectives, based on six activities. They include
Awareness: the creation of platforms and avenues for advocating for the improvement of cancer care in the country
Screening: The foundation uses outpatient clinics around the country to carry out the diagnosis, screening, and management of cancer cases in Nigeria.
Diagnosis: The organization maintains a standard cancer registry, according to the International Association of Cancer Registries (IACR).
Treatment: The organization has plans to build cancer centres with full treatment capabilities and facilities using acceptable treatment procedures such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Research: the body is also planning on instituting medical studies on various thematic topics on cancer.
Living beyond Cancer: this entails provision of support for cancer survivors
The statistics on cancer cases in Nigeria is a major source of worry for many healthcare professionals and many affected people. Ironically, the government’s effort doesn’t seem to reflect the urgency and seriousness of cancer cases. Private entities have thus taken up the issue and created a network of support and coping resources for cancer patients which have been very helpful recently.