Why constant cancer screening is important — Minister

To reduce the risk of having cancer, it is very important to engage in regular physical exercise and medical screening for the disease.

The Minister of health, Isaac Adewole, gave this advice on Saturday in commemoration of the World Cancer Day, celebrated across the world every February 4.

Celebrities on Saturday participated in a walk organised in Abuja by cancer advocates to create awareness of the disease and promote the culture iof constant cancer screening.

According to Mr. Adewole, any form of physical activity that is consistent will promote healthy living, reduce obesity and other non-communicable diseases.

In a press statement by the Director, Media and Public Relations of the ministry, Boade Akinola, the minister explained that this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “We can. I can”, was chosen to promote individual and collective drive in reducing the global burden of cancer.

Mr. Adewole stressed that fighting the disease requires both individual and community efforts.

The individual’s role is to make a healthy lifestyle choice by engaging in weekly physical activities for at least two and half hours for adult and an hour for children.

Other lifestyle modifications suggested by the minister include avoiding tobacco smoking and chewing, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and staying safe under the sun.

He also emphasised attention to early symptoms and signs of cancer, as finding cancer early makes it easier to treat and cure.

Mr. Adewole also urged communities to stop myths that lead to stigma and discrimination against people living with cancer.

“The key barriers to treatment of cancer in Nigeria includes poor awareness, poor health seeking behaviour, low level of non-governmental investments, low number of skilled health care personnel, funding Gaps, among others.

“The Federal Ministry of Health is making significant effort in awareness creation by developing jingles on cancer awareness in five Nigerian languages viz: English, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and ‘Pidgin-english,. These are available for broadcast to the general public on Radio and social media,” he said.

Cancer treatment and management in Nigeria has been a challenge because of treatment and insufficient number of radiotherapy machines in the country.

There are only nine radiotherapy machines in Nigeria and at no time are all fully functional.

As a result, cancer patients have to wait to be placed on radiotherapy, or travel out of the country to access treatment if they can afford the cost.

Mr. Adewole, however, said, the government was adopting the public-private partnership strategy “to address the funding gaps and manpower shortages.”

He disclosed that a new machine had been donated by SHELL Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to the National Hospital, Abuja, and would be operational in the next few months.

“The facility at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) should be offering full and un-interrupted service by June 2018,” he added.

To create awareness about the deadly disease, cancer advocates held a walk in Abuja on Saturday to enlighten people on the need for constant medical checkup for early disease detention.

The ‘Walk against Cancer’ witnessed a large turnout and had in attendance celebrities, cancer survivors, cancer volunteers, among others.

Joe Okei-Odumakin, a woman’s right activist and President of Women Arise said at the event that cancer is the second highest killer disease apart from cardiovascular diseases.

Mrs. Okei-Odumakin called on government to declare a state of emergency on cancer treatment in the country, lamenting that Nigeria loses about 80,000 people to the disease yearly.

“Many of the cancer patients in the country are not receiving adequate treatment as needed and a lot of people don’t know they are living with cancer. if the disease is early identified and treatment commences, it saves lives. There is a need for policy makers to prioritize the treatment of cancer. We also call on philanthropist and organization to come to the aid of cancer patients in the country”.

Mrs. Okei-Odumakin said the walk was “to call the attention of policy makers and citizens to cancer. We also want people living with cancer to know that it is not a death sentence.

“We must create awareness, we must raise fund for them and our own intention is that we will be able to kill this disease. We are trying as much as possible to reach those in the rural areas because most of them sees cancer as witchcraft and at the end they are sentenced to death,” she added.

The convener of the walk and Executive Director of Project PINKBLUE, Runcie Chidebe, in his remark said the walk was to commemorate with the World Cancer Day and create awareness of need for periodic screening, as the disease can be cured if detected early.

“We have more people dying of cancer as compare to other part of the world. Over 102,000 people in Nigeria are newly diagnosed f cancer and many can not afford the treatment. We are using this medium to tell the world that cancer exists but can be treated.

“We are appealing to the federal government to implement and budget for the national cancer control plan. Adequate funding is needed to attack cancer. Out of nine treatment center in the country, only few are working. We also urge people to go for screening today because early detection is key,” he added.

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