Dozens of Nigerians on Saturday marched from Transcorp through the Federal Secretariat road in Abuja to raise awareness on the menace of cancer in the country.
Cyclists in full gear, skaters, ladies bearing placards, children and babies were part of the event tagged ‘World Cancer Day, Walk, Race, Skate, Cycle and Marathon Against Cancer’.
It was organised by Project Pink Blue and its partners and featured a five-kilometre walk.
The organisers also used the event to give free prostate, breast and cervical cancer screening to at least 1,000 people.
The World Cancer Day is an international event marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment.
Speaking on the importance of raising awareness on early cancer screening, the Executive Director of the group, Runcie Chidebe, said many people have died because they were not diagnosed early and due to lack of effective treatment facilities in the country.
He advocated the need to raise awareness on the disease to everyone, especially those living in the rural areas and illiterates who have little or no knowledge of the disease
“We are commemorating the World cancer day. Today is February 2 but the World Cancer Day is February 4,” Mr Chidebe said.
“It is a great day for us to create awareness and engage the government and private sector, including individuals, that everyone has a role to play in reducing the cancer burden,” he said.
He enjoined Nigerians to also imbibe a healthy lifestyle because lifestyle is associated with cancer.
“As we speak today, cancer treatment in Nigeria is highly limited, so many of the facilities are all broken down. This means when someone has cancer, they are just on their own.
“What we are saying is that action needs to be taken. We need the government to act by taking intentional action about cancer because we are losing our mentors, fathers, mothers and children,” he said.
Speaking in similar vein, Owen Omogiafor, the MD/CEO, Transcorp Hotel Abuja, said early detection is the best way to address cancer.
Mrs Omogiafor, who is a cervical abnormalities known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasis (CIN) at age 29 (having CIN is not cervical cancer, but it is a stage that many women could be diagnosed of, if not treated, they could have cervical cancer in future).
She said Transcorp Hilton Abuja was supporting Project Pink Blue in raising and creating awareness about cancer.
“I, standing here, at the age of 29 was able to avoid full-blown cervical cancer because I went for my pap smear when it was discovered that I was a stage away from full-blown cancer. But today after going through a series of treatment I am free.”
She said but for the early detection, she would have had her womb removed or died.
Mrs Omogiafor urged people to go get tested and not think they are too young to have cancer.
She said she had no pain and was also young when she was diagnosed and treated. She said babies also have the disease.
“Some people say cancer has to do with lifestyle. Please keep a healthy lifestyle and if you know there is a genetic disposition of cancer in your family, try to always go for a checkup,” she said.
Cancer is when abnormal cells divide in an uncontrollable way. Cancer also called malignancy, is an abnormal growth of cells and may eventually spread into other tissues.
Some type of cancer cause rapid cell growth, while others cause cells to grow and divide at a slower rate. There are more than 200 different types of cancer. It develops anywhere in the body.
Cancer is a non-communicable disease and the second leading cause of death in the world. It has no age limit as it can affect anyone, even newborn. But survival rates are improving for many types of cancer. This is due to improvement in screening and treatment.
But Nigeria is still lagging behind in the rate of survival. This is due to many factors such as late detection, misdiagnosis, lack of medical expertise to treat patients, lack of chemotherapy facilities or radiotherapy machines, high cost of cancer management, little financial support from government and low awareness of the disease.
Although there has been no concrete evidence on what causes/triggers the disease, some predisposing factors such as smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, drinking of alcohol, air pollution, exposure to excessive radiation, viruses, genetic/hereditary factors among others have been pointed out.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 24.6 million people live with cancer worldwide.
About 12.5 per cent of all deaths are attributable to cancer. It is estimated that by 2020, 16 million new cases will be diagnosed per annum out of which 70 per cent will be in the developing countries.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matsidiso Moeti, in commemoration of the World Cancer Day in 2018 said the cancer burden in Africa is projected to rise on account of the ageing population, chronic infection, unhealthy lifestyle choices and risk factors.
She said about a third of cancer deaths are due to preventable risk factors such as overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol consumption.
In order to reduce the high death rate from cancer in Nigeria, Okaima Ohizua, Executive Director of Transcorp Hilton, advocated that cancer awareness and screening should be taken to the rural areas where they have little or no knowledge or facilities to detect cancer early.
Ms Ohizua, who lost two of her family members to different types of cancer, urged people to go for a constant checkup as early detection could have saved her father and sister.
She, however, lamented the lack of treatment facilities in the country, and a high cost of treatment. She urged the government and private sector to intensify effort to reduce the sufferings of people battling with cancer in Nigeria.
“The number of people who die from cancer every year is very huge and we can make a difference. The way we can make a difference is that all of us to be cancer aware. For the men and women need to know about their cancer status,” she said.
The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukaemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer, cervical cancer among others.