By Onyeukwu Rowland Iheloghara
The 2019 edition of the Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Association of Radiation and Clinical Oncologists of Nigeria has begun in Abuja with a call for stakeholders to engage government at all levels to ensure qualitative and improved health system particularly in the area of cancer control and care in Nigeria.
Presenting a paper on “Ondo State Cancer Project” at the conference, First Lady of Ondo State and founder, Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria(BRECAN,) Her Excellency, Chief (Mrs.) Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, highlighted the happenings in Ondo State as an evidence that consistent advocacy to political leaders for an improved health system can yield significant gains.
She advised both health providers and civil societies to consciously and conscientiously engage the government at all levels to act more responsibly in ensuring the formulation and implementation of a cancer care and control plan at their respective levels.
Earlier in her paper presentation, Mrs. Akeredolu, who is a frontline advocate on the fight against cancer in Nigeria, revealed that according to available data, Nigeria recorded the highest number of death attributed to breast cancer in Africa.
She stated that despite these statistics, there are very few experts and specialized comprehensive cancer centres to adequately address the problem.
The sunshine state First Lady, however, raised hope that Ondo State government is taking steps to make Ondo State a model for other states as a result of the efforts of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria(BRECAN) from its advocacy visits.
In her words; “Looking at the huge gaps in cancer treatment in Nigeria, the Ondo State government, after series of advocacy visits to both the executive and legislative arms of the government by Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria(BRECAN), is now taking the initiative to make Ondo State the home of a model for state government-initiated high quality and resource appropriate comprehensive centre for prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in low and middle income countries.”
In his welcome address, the National President of ARCON, Dr Festus Igbinoba noted that cancer care in Nigeria today needs a lot of upgrading, when compared to what applies in the Western world.
He said the assessment could not be faulted because it’s a known fact that Nigerians spend billions of dollars of the scarce foreign exchange on medical tourism of which cancer tops the list.
Dr Igbinoba, a Chief Consultant in Radiation and Clinical Oncology, enumerated some of the factors contributing to the state of cancer care locally.
From his wealth of experience, he identified the factors to include government factors, diagnostic strength and patient factors.
He, however, called on leaders and policy makers to study India’s transformation process for Nigeria’s gain, which, according to him, has been able to do a lot of upgrading through the help of their government.
The two-day conference, which focuses on “Excellence in Oncology: Building Professionalism and Encouraging Multidisciplinary Management ,would cover Radiation and Clinical Oncology: Practice and Scope, Surgical Oncology: Strengthening The Practice, Medical Oncology: An Emerging Specialty in Nigeria, and Oncology Nursing: Strengthening Collaboration.
Highlights of the event were the exhibition of products and services by health-related corporate organizations and honouring Ondo state First Lady as Matron of the association.