Lagos — A Consultant Oncologist, Dr Atara Ntekim, on Friday decried the high cost of cancer treatment in Nigeria, urging all levels of government to subsidise it.
Ntekim, who works with the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
According to him, cancer diagnosis and treatment entails various modalities of intervention.
“Most times, patients cannot afford the cost of these services leading to defaults in management.
“Efforts to subsidise the treatment or offer financial support will improve access to cancer treatment,” he said.
Ntekim said that cancer care in Nigeria was improving, especially in areas of awareness and public education.
“The attention of the public is frequently brought toward cancer, especially as some prominent citizens succumb to the disease.
“The awareness associated with these episodes is that some people can now talk about their diseases, unlike in the past when such sicknesses would have been hidden for fear of stigmatisation,” he said.
Ntekim said that unhindered access to the treatment of cancer would improve the management of the disease.
“Improvement in the management of the disease can be brought about by taking measures to better access to its treatment.
“Access in terms of availability of treatment facilities and affordability.
“At present, treatment facilities and expertise are very scanty and locations are far from most people.
“A situation where a patient travels for eight hours to get access to treatment facilities is far from acceptable,” he said.
The consultant said that there had been improvements in access to preventive measures against the disease in the country.
“Such measures, including vaccines against hepatitis B and HPV viruses associated with liver and cervical cancer, respectively, are now available in Nigeria though, access is still limited.
“There have been marginal increases in screening facilities for early detection of breast, cervical, prostate and colon cancers.
“There have also been improvements in training of cancer health personnel.
“Improvements in the availability of wider spectrum of chemotherapy agents has also been enlisted and radiation treatment facilities has increased to about eight centres,” he said.
Ntekim urged individuals to take appropriate measures including eating healthy diets and exercise to reduce the incidence of cancer.
He said: “Eating healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, living an active life, reduction in smoking and alcohol intake.
“Accessing preventive measures such as immunisation and screening tests, should be embraced by Nigerians in order to prevent the disease and ensure early diagnosis.”
Ntekim urged philanthropists and non-governmental organisations to partner with government to sponsor sectional programmes that would work toward effective cancer control. (NAN)