By Dr. Abia Nzelu
“Where you live should not determine whether you live or whether you die” – Bono
On February 4 every year, the global cancer community commemorates World Cancer Day (WCD) to inspire greater awareness of cancer and action to better prevent, detect and treat the disease. WCD 2022 marks the first year of a new three-year campaign centred on the issue of equity with the campaign theme ‘Close the care gap’. This year’s campaign raises awareness about the lack of equity in cancer care.
Cancer remains a major cause of geographic, racial, social, and gender inequality. According to the WHO, cancer ranks as a leading cause of death and an important barrier to increasing life expectancy in every nation. A 2019 study found cancer to be the first or second leading cause of death before the age of 70 years in 112 of 183 countries. In 2020, there were about 19.3 million new cases and 10 million cancer deaths worldwide. Sadly, 70% of cancer deaths occur in developing nations like Nigeria due to a lack of access to optimal care. Nigeria is currently estimated to have 233,911 cancer cases, with 124,815 new cases and 78,899 cancer deaths, yearly.
Without bold action, an estimated 28.4 million new global cancer cases would occur in 2040, a 47% rise from 2020! The relative magnitude of the projected increase is highest in low Human Development Index (HDI) nations (95%), including Nigeria. This projected increase in cancer incidence will be paralleled by increases in mortality rates unless resources are placed within health services to appropriately treat and manage the growing cancer cases.
A Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC) is the only institution that can optimally tackle all stages and types of cancer. The CCC is NOT a hospital with a radiotherapy machine. Rather, it is a world-class, stand-alone tertiary health institution, with all its units focused solely on cancer care. The CCC houses first-class cancer research, preventive, curative, and palliative care in one place resulting in better outcomes across a range of measures – including, most importantly, cancer survival.
Sadly, whilst India has over 200 CCC – most of which are philanthropy-funded non-profit/non-governmental institutions, Nigeria has none. Some African nations that have CCC include Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, and Sudan. Instead, Nigerians now spend over one billion dollars on foreign treatment annually, an amount sufficient to establish twenty (20) CCC every year. Unfortunately, most Nigerians who go abroad for treatment end up dying because of late diagnosis and delay in intervention. Moreover, unforeseen situations (such as the COVID-19 restriction) may make it impossible to go on medical tourism, even if one could afford it.
Dr. Ned Sharpless, the Director of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), stated that “We can’t leave huge portions of society behind and expect meaningful progress. The bottom line is that we want fewer cancer diagnoses and more … survivors.” According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), efforts to build a sustainable infrastructure for cancer prevention and care in developing countries are critical for global cancer control.
↓↑GivingTide is an initiative to promote concerted and catalytic philanthropy. To this end, ↓↑GivingTide has established the ↓↑GivingTide Global Trust, which is managed by FBNQuest Trustees, a subsidiary of FBN holdings. The current focal cause is the BIG WAR Against Cancer, which is operated by the National Cancer Prevention Programme (NCPP), an initiative of the mass medical mission. Since 2007, NCPP has spearheaded community-based cancer prevention across Nigeria. In 2017, a fleet of Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC) was deployed, to great effect. The project is now at the phase of establishing Nigeria’s first CCC.
↓↑GivingTide uses the opportunity of this year’s WCD to once again call on everyone, collectively and individually, to commit to the effort towards closing the cancer care gap by supporting the BIG WAR Against Cancer.
IF ONE IN SEVEN NIGERIANS DONATED ONLY N1,000 (ONE THOUSAND NAIRA) TO THE ↓↑GIVINGTIDE TRUST, NIGERIA’S FIRST CCC WOULD BE READY WITHIN SEVEN MONTHS. Therefore, there is no reason for the holocaust of preventable deaths from cancer. Together, it is possible!
Let’s ACT! (Attack Cancer Today! Attack Cancer Together!! Attack Cancer Totally).
Dr. Abia Nzelu, the Executive Secretary of ↑↓GivingTide International may be reached via email@example.com
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