As oncologists gather in Enugu, early diagnosis and treatment accessibility are primary priorities.
The 6th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Association of Radiation and Clinical Oncologists of Nigeria, ARCON, took off in Enugu on Monday with an emphasis on improved access to cancer diagnosis and treatment.
The National President of ARCON, Dr. Nwamaka Lasebekon, said at a press briefing ahead of the commencement of the conference that oncologists were concerned over the high rate of cancer in the country.
She addressed journalists alongside the association’s general secretary, Dr. Ololade Kehinde, the financial secretary, Dr. Foluke Sarimiye, the editor, Prof. Danladi Adamu Boduje, the PRO, Dr. Samuel Kwis, the welfare secretary, Dr. Olatunji Temitope, the assistant general secretary, Dr. Jummai Jimeta-Tuko, and the treasurer, Dr. Bolanle Adeboyega.
The President said that with the staggering cancer data in the country and several unreported cases, there was a need for all stakeholders, including individuals, to take the necessary actions.
She said the conference, with the theme “Equity in Oncology: Policy, Practice, and Patients,” had brought together international and local healthcare professionals, policymakers, patient advocates, and researchers to discuss critical issues surrounding cancer care and equity in Nigeria and beyond.
“The burden of cancer in the country is increasing, with estimates showing a significant rise in cancer cases in recent years.
“Our current statistics are alarming, with an estimated quoted figure of 125,000 cases yearly and over 78,000 deaths annually.
“These figures are mere approximations, as they could be more. We currently have the worst mortality rates for breast cancer worldwide.
“However, access to quality cancer care has remained unequal, leaving many patients at a disadvantage due to socio-economic and geographic disparities.”
While giving rays of hope, Lasebekon said the Equity in Oncology Initiative, spearheaded by ARCON, would address the disparities head-on.
“This initiative is rooted in the belief that every Nigerian, regardless of their background or financial situation, should have access to timely and effective cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“With the Honourable Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate’s resolve to operationalize the Nigeria Health Act, which provides a legal framework for the regulation and management of Nigeria’s national health system, and the establishment of the Nigerian Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, NICRAT, we are hopeful that this will translate to greater government commitment within the oncology ecosystem,” she stated.
The ARCON President identified key components that promote Equity in Oncology to include Improved Access to Screening and Early Detection; Affordable Treatment Options; Cancer Education and Awareness and Support for Vulnerable Populations; Research and Data Collection.
She stressed that prioritising Equity in Oncology would represent a turning point in the nation’s fight against cancer.
While answering questions from journalists, the General Secretary, Dr Ololade Kehinde identified finance, cultural and religious belief as part of the major challenges to early cancer diagnosis and treatment.
She said patients always presented late to the hospital after they had gone around prayer houses.
“The majority do not believe in the reality of cancer; they say it is not their portion, so by the time they come, it is late.
“Cancer has a cure, but it has to be detected early, and this is why we need massive awareness and advocacy to correct erroneous religious and cultural beliefs,” the ARCON scribe added.