The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole on Tuesday declared that the Federal Government was working hard to cause a significant reduction in the cost of cancer treatment.
Adewole made this disclosure at the launch of Oyo State five-year cancer control strategic plan, spanning five years (from January 2018 to December 2022), held in Ibadan.
At the event were Professor Abayomi Durosinmi-Etti; Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, his wife and founder of Access to Basic Medical Care Foundation, Chief Florence Ajimobi and Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azeez Adeduntan.
Adewole, while speaking, lauded the state government and ABC Foundation for setting the pace for other states in the country with the cancer control strategic plan, an initiative he said Oyo State pioneered in the country.
The Minister, who rued what he called the low level of information and awareness on the debilitating effect of the disease across the country, said that the Federal Government was working hard to cause a significant reduction in the cost of cancer treatment.
Although he put the cost at $2,000 (N734,000) currently in the country, he said it was still a far cry to the $10,000 (N3.7m) it cost to treat cancer in neighbouring Ghana.
He said that the FG would have loved to establish more cancer treatment centres across the country, in spite of the prohibitive cost, but was being hampered by competing demands of other life-threatening diseases such as heart diseases, hypertension, kidney failure, cirrhosis, among others.
The minister said, “This is the first time in the history of cancer in Nigeria that a state will make a strategic plan on it. We now know that 40 per cent of cancer can be prevented if we change our habits and lifestyle, while 40 per cent can be cured if detected early.
“In nearby Ghana, it cost $10,000 to treat cancer while it cost $2,000 to treat the same disease in Nigeria. But, even at that amount, it is still expensive for our people. We are working hard to make the treatment affordable.
“It is also advisable to localize this cancer plan, as this will be strategic to its success. Involvement of the local government administrations and other health platforms like the Primary Health Care should be integrated into the programme.”
Wife of Niger State Governor, Dr. Amina Bello, Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Professor Temitope Alonge, and representative of wife of Kwara State governor, Mr. Lanre Bello, harped on early detection and preventive measures to reduce the cancer scourge.
In his keynote, Durosinmi-Etti, who was the pioneer chief medical director of the National Hospital, Abuja, identified smoking, excessive alcohol intake, albinos’ exposure to sun and excessive body weight as some of the habits and lifestyles that promote cancer.
He said, “We need to pay attention to the spread of cancer in Nigeria in order to bring it to a near zero level. From research, we discovered that breast and cervical cancer account for 50 per cent of female mortality.
“Apart from Gombe, Ibadan is the only state in Nigeria with facilities to treat cancer and this call for absolute readiness to campaign for prevention rather than treatment. 33 per cent cure is sure with prevention and early detection.
“But, if people will just be careful about their habits and lifestyles, such as smoking, excessive drinking, exposure to paint and asbestos chemicals, excessive weight and obesity, as well as exposure to the sun in the case of albinos, there will be a significant reduction in cancer incidence.”
Launching the strategic plan, the governor said that the initiative was birthed with the collaborative efforts of the state government and the private sector.
Ajimobi, while speaking, stated that effective healthcare system could not be sustained by government alone, but with the support of the private sector, adding that mortality rate attributed to cancer had been alarming and must be nipped in the bud.
He said “May I reiterate the fact that effective healthcare service delivery the world over is a joint venture between government and the private sector. It is evident that health cannot be sustained by government’s efforts alone.
“As a responsive government, we have taken a preemptive review of the structure of the healthcare system with the requisite intent of meeting the health needs of our people. An extensive restructuring of the sector, which involves the three tiers of service provision across the state is currently on-going.
“Permit me to use this opportunity to commend the efforts of my wife, who I unequivocally describe as a philanthropist par excellence. She is a woman with the milk of kindness and concern for the welfare and wellbeing of others. I thank her for this initiative and others before this.”
Mrs. Ajimobi in her welcome address said that the plight of cancer patients informed her decision to play a major role in bringing smiles back to their faces, adding that the plan would harp on prevention of the disease rather than cure.
She hinted that the strategic plan was targeting 500,000 people for screening annually, with 165 centers to be created across the state, while soliciting a special cancer fund to assist cancer patients in the State.
“A significant proportion of the citizenry are not aware of cancer, neither are the majority equipped with much-needed information to protect themselves and their loved ones from it, leading to late presentation.
“The strategic plan is targeted at five identified priority areas and will be implemented in two phases over the next five years. Its implementation will also be supervised and coordinated by a steering committee comprising of relevant stakeholders.
“Over the next three months, 1,320 nurses across the 33 Local Government Areas of the state will be trained on cancer screening and 165 screening centers (5 in each LGA), capable of screening 500 thousand people annually, will be established.
“Although this plan has been designed to be sustainable, there is a need to establish a Cancer Fund to support cancer patients in the state. I am also aware that the State Health Insurance Agency is almost done with plans to incorporate cancer care into all its products and packages,” she said.