Adewole advises healers on cancer treatment

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Do you have a cure for cancer? If yes,  contact the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja. The ministry is ready to engage natural health practitioners and explore traditional medicine and alternative treatments in cancer treatment.

Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole made the appeal at a seminar at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). The seminar was organised by his ministry to address the rising cases of cancer across the country.

Speaking on the topic: ‘’Cancer in Nigeria: Screening, diagnosis, treatment and data collection’’, with ‘’Building a team of policy makers, providers and users of healthcare’’ as sub-theme, Adewole said only research would enhance the understanding of cancer and help find and develop better effective treatments, adding that only a global search for answers will help us get to find a cure this disease.

He said: “There are no parts or organs of the body that cancer cannot attack- except three – nails, teeth and hair. It is crucial to remember that cancer is not one disease – it is more than 200. All are different, unique diseases, which require different approaches for treatment. Treatments that work for some cancers don’t work for others and sometimes those treatments simply stop working.  Thanks to decades of research, survival from cancer has doubled in the last 40 years.”

He identified breast cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer as the commonest among women while prostrate, liver, colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer, which is cancer (a growth, lump, tumor) of the colon and the rectum (CRC) and connective/soft tissue as rampant among men.

Adewole said: “Just as in the global world, great researchers and sponsors are encouraged, we, also at the Ministry of Health, are saying, if we believe a project can make a difference in the fight against cancer, then we will award a grant to make it happen. We are not interested in national borders or any kind of geographical bias, just the most promising proposals. And that’s the very reason we are asking for the brightest and best practitioners from around the nation to bring their work to us.”

He said cancer treatment is not only about drugs, but also about getting the diagnosis right. “But cancer also needs to be diagnosed, and treatment needs monitoring – so there are huge efforts underway to improve and speed up cancer diagnosis and to find ways to monitor the success – or failure – of treatment. For example, almost every week, we see a new paper that finds a new potential biomarker to detect cancer, and all of these need to be followed up in larger research studies. Our ultimate goal is seeing no life cut short by cancer, and we are exploring all fronts to ensure that,” Adewole said.

He continued: “Understanding what causes cancer, who gets it, and why, is a huge area of research. For example, we know that our diet is very important in determining our risk of cancer; yet, we are still very much in the dark as to how. Huge studies are going on across the world looking at how diet and other lifestyle choices can affect our risk of the disease. And answer will emerge someday.

‘’The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises traditional medicine (TM) and we will not jettison that. So, anybody that has an answer to the disease should contact the cancer unit of the Ministry. Contact person is David Atuwo- 08033113070, email- datuwo@yahoo.com. Or twit me @IsaacFAdewole, @fmohnigeria or @akinolaboade.”

To forestall cases of cancer, the Minister appealed to Nigerians to stop lifestyles that promote the disease, especially smoking – primary or secondary.

“The most common risk factors for cancer include aging, tobacco, sun exposure, radiation exposure, chemicals and other substances, some viruses and bacteria, certain hormones, family history of cancer, alcohol, poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight,” he said.

Dr. Bola Oyeledun of Centre for Integrated Health Programmes (CIHP) Nigeria, who spoke on: ‘’Cancer epidemiology in Nigeria: Where we were … and getting to where we need be’’, said all hands should be on deck to ensure that Nigeria eradicate the disease.

“We are doing all to capture the rate but there are so many unreported cases that just die off. There are three types of cancer registries. Population-based cancer registries monitor new cases within well-defined populations over periods of time and have been recognised as useful sources of information on the incidence, prevalence and mortality from cancer in various populations worldwide. The data they generate is particularly useful for cancer prevention, early detection, determination of cancer rates and trends, research and evaluation of cancer control efforts. Hospital-based cancer registries, on the other hand, collect data about diagnosis and treatment of cancer within a hospital or group of hospitals. They are, therefore, suitable for comparison of cancer care infrastructure (personnel, resources and logistics) and treatment outcomes. The third type of cancer registries are special cancer registries that are devoted either to specific cancers or groups of cancers, e.g. pediatric cancer registries, gastric cancer registries, etc. Such registries are valuable for research and public, patients and professional educational purposes.”

She said: “Cancer registration in Nigeria experienced significant setbacks in early 70s and 80s due to the economic and political challenges then. Data from the Ibadan Cancer Registry was no longer accepted for inclusion in Cancer inventory (CIV) and no new population-based Cancer Registry data of sufficient quality was generated. There was, therefore, no reliable source of information on cancer incidence, prevalence and mortality in the country during this period. Information about epidemiology of cancer were published as case series from clinical, pathology and autopsy records, which were often hospital-based, incomplete and reflected the resources and specialties available at the specific institutions. These sources of information were limited and could not provide information on cancer incidence, often over-represented cancers that were easy to diagnose, were biased by the resources at the specific institution and interests of the personnel reporting the data.”

She said: “One-third of deaths from cancer are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks -tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, pollution. Vaccination against cancer causing infections could prevent 1.1 million cases per year (e.g. HPV, Hep B vaccinations). Only 14 percent of people in need of palliative care  receive it. Less than 30 percent of low-income countries reported that treatment services are available compared to more than 90 percent of high-income countries. Only one in five low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.

“Rising cancer incidence will strain limited heath care resources. To appropriately fund prevention, early diagnosis, curative and palliative care needs detailed knowledge of the burden of disease. Deaths due to communicable, maternal and neonatal causes   are decreasing globally while Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) are rising.

The medic said there are more international policies, such as the World Global Action Plan for the control of NCD 2013-2020, which have been integrated into SDGs  to address the gaps.  She said prevention and treatment of chronic infections, such as Hepatitis B and C, would reduce the incidence of liver cancers, adding that HPV vaccination would reduce cervical cancer incidence.

On the way forward, she suggested evidence based-programming, high quality and functional regional cancer registries, cancer awareness and strategic behaviour change communication,, citing #BeseenGetScreened #Gettreatedintime.

She said: ‘’Functional policies and guidelines on NCCP and tertiary health institutions need to be further strengthened, Private sector involvement and active participation in the prevention, diagnosis, management and end-of-life care (for profit and non-profit). And, importantly, the political commitment to make this happen is desired.”

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