To reduce the burden of treating cancer, a terminal disease claiming over 40, 000 Nigerians yearly, the federal government is planning to roll out a cancer treatment fund, health minister, Osagie Ehanire, has said.
“There will be a creation of a fund, either a cancer treatment fund or whatever we decide to call it. It is important and can be driven by investment or donation,” the minister said.
“It can be driven by any method that takes you beyond the point where health insurance cannot cover anymore in your treatment.”
The minister said this in response to a touching story on the painful battle against cancer shared by Serah Shimenenge Yugh, a breast cancer survivor, on Tuesday at the National Health Dialogue holding in Abuja.
Mr Ehanire and Ms Yugh were both panelists who discussed the topic, “Cancer control in Nigeria”.
Speaking first in the panel, the cancer survivor shared how she battled with the debilitating ailment without getting at least a free or subsidised cancer screening.
She said many cancer sufferers die needlessly because their conditions are mostly not diagnosed on time.
Ms Yugh appealed to the government to at least make cancer screening free.
Speaking, the minister alluded to the need for early diagnosis.
“One thing about cancer is that early diagnosis is important and once you detect it, you have to start treatment immediately to avoid spread,” he noted.
The minister said apart from health insurance, the new funding plan on cancer will help reduce the cost of treatment and diagnosis.
He said the funding plan will also draw support from the private sector who will set up “treatment centres just as we have private sectors setting up dialysis centres in this same way.”
“Nobody needs to suffer financial burden in regaining their health when the society can provide treatments for those who need it. Those are the steps that the ministry will take.”
The official said the prevention of cancer is one of the best ways to avoid it.
The minister noted that one way to do that is by avoiding unhealthy habits that causes cancer.
Mr Ehanire stressed the need for proper awareness. He applauded Serah for being able to identify that she was having a cancerous growth timely.
The official appealed to health workers to have the index of suspicion in detecting cancer.
The minister said the Nigerian government placed taxes on alcohol and cigarette to reduce the chances of people getting cancer from such products and also derives funds for health interventions.
He said the Basic Health Care Provision Fund will begin to cover cancer.
Cancer in Nigeria
Earlier in February, the World Health Organisation said an estimated 116,000 new cases of cancer and 41,000 cancer-related deaths were recorded in Nigeria in 2018.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide as new cases and deaths from the disease keep rising.
In Nigeria, the painful killer has continued to claim many due to high cost and inadequate radiotherapy treatment which has been the bane of cancer patients.
Radiotherapy is one of the key routines in the painful fight against cancer. A cancer patient often needs treatment at one point or the other. Experts say it is often better not to start it than to have a break in the sessions.
Today, Nigeria boasts of eight government-owned radiotherapy machines located in different areas in the country.