As Nigerian joined the rest of the world to mark the World Cancer Day on February 4, an oncologist, Debo Omikunle, has called for better awareness of the disease to ensure early detection.
About 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer yearly with more than 7 million dying of the ailment.
Cancer, also called malignancy, is an abnormal growth of the living cells. There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma.
Mr. Omikunle said people need to know the importance of going to the hospital early to ensure early detection and treatment before it gets worse.
“Before now, cancer is not so common in Africa, it was common in the Western countries.
“Unfortunately what they have there, we now have here; that is why the cancer awareness day is of high significance because it will help propagate the message that cancer is real and people need to be proactive about screening and the risk factors that causes the diseases”.
The specialist said treatment in Nigeria has not recorded much success because most cases are presented late and because of the lack of equipment for diagnosis and treatment.
“We don’t have data for how many people are diagnosed and treated in the country because we don’t keep data, we rely on foreign data, but the success rate is low because we don’t have enough equipment and machinery for treatment.
“Presently, only three radiotherapy machines are working in the whole of the federation and the have been working erratically. Chemotherapy drugs are expensive and most patients cannot afford it. There is a need for the government to support in the awareness campaign and treatment of people diagnosed as that is the only way we can record success”.
“People need to be enlightened on good health habits to reduce the risk factors and also make their doctors their friends by embarking on constant medical check,” he said.
Below are some of the prevalent cases of cancer in Nigeria.
1. Breast cancer is not gender and age selective but mostly common among women. It is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women and easier to detect that other cancers.
According to the American Cancer Society, a lump or mass is the most common symptom, but other breast changes (such as thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation, redness, nipple abnormalities and discharge) should be reported to a doctor.
Testing techniques include mammography for women 40 and above, ultrasound test and self examination.
2. Prostate cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among men. The risk of prostate cancer is higher in black men (74 per cent higher), but researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint why.
It gives no early symptoms. Once the disease has advanced, men may experience weak or interrupted urine flow, frequent urination, difficulty stopping and starting urine flow, blood in the urine, and pain or burning during urination.
For early detection, methods such as regular medical check, Prostate Specific Antigen test (PSA assay blood test) and Prostrate scan for men 40 and above can be done.
3. Colorectal cancer is third most common among both sexes. It is not easily detected in its early stages and this might account for its high mortality rate.
Symptoms include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits or shape, the feeling that the bowel is not completely empty, cramping pain in the lower abdomen, decreased appetite or weight loss.
Because it is not easy to detect, once symptoms above are noted, there is a need to seek specialist advice and also test for faecal occult blood.
4. Cervical cancer is similar to uterine cancer. Both are gynaecological cancers common to women. Cervical cancer is the cancer of a uterine cervix. Early menarche, menopause, first sexual contact, talc, and oral contraceptive pill increase the risk of cervical cancer. It is also associated with human papilloma virus. It can be cured if detected early. Diagnosis include pap smear and HPV vaccination before 18 years as prevention for a girl child .
5. Uterine cancer, sometimes referred to as endometrial cancer. Abnormal bleeding is often an early sign of this type of cancer. Women are encouraged to report any abnormal bleeding or spotting to their physicians, especially if they are postmenopausal. A pap smear test can also be done as preventive measure.
6. Lung and bronchus cancer is common among smokers. Symptoms don’t usually occur until the cancer is advanced, and include persistent cough, sputum streaked with blood, chest pain, voice change, worsening shortness of breath and recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis.
7. Kidney and renal cancer, like the colorectal, doesn’t have any symptom in its early stages. As the tumour progresses, symptoms may include blood in the urine, a pain or lump in the lower back or abdomen, fatigue, weight loss, fever or swelling in the legs and ankles.
Regular medical check up with a specialist, liver function assay and a comprehensive renal function evaluation will show when things begin to go wrong.