The Coordinator, National Cancer Control Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Okpako Okpikpi, says cancer is not a death sentence if detected early and presented to the hospital for treatment.
Okpikpi told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that early presentation of cancer cases was key to successful treatment and management.
The coordinator spoke against the backdrop of the 2020 Edition of the Annual International Cancer Week, scheduled to hold from October 26 to 30.
Cancer is an abnormal growth of body cells which kills normal cells and stops them from functioning properly which might lead to death.
“Cancer is not a death sentence but prevention is better than cure, particularly with the issue of cancer where we do not know the causes of many of them.
“Cancer is not a death sentence but through early detection, it can be managed. When people are informed, they become knowledgeable about it and that is one of the key things that the International Cancer Week seeks to achieve.
“Awareness will be created to the public; they will be informed with respect to regular visitation to the clinic.
“They are taught what to do and they can do self-examination or when they see some symptoms, they can quickly seek medical care.
“Early presentation will save lives or presenting to the wrong places or taking things for granted or going to wrong places that can worsen the disease,” Okpikpi said.
The coordinator, however, cautioned against presenting cancer cases to the wrong places such as spiritual and traditional herbal homes.
Okpikpi said spiritual and medical homes could work together but some people would decide just to go to spiritual houses or traditional houses, thereby presenting the case late to the hospital.
“When we are talking about the advancement of cancer, we are talking about when it would have spread to other areas, this is when it becomes an issue to manage,’’ he said.
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Health has achieved a lot through an annual International Cancer Week by raising awareness on cancer and what could be done to prevent it.
“We have achieved a lot as many of the cancer cases do not have a cure, we do not also know their causes but there are predisposing factors and risk factors.
“What the International Cancer Week seeks to achieve is to create awareness among the general public of possible disposing factor, Okpikpi said.’’
He told NAN that the event would also be a platform to bring researchers together, adding that the National Palliative Care Policy and Chemosafe Policy would be reviewed.
“So, we want to provide them with care so that they have a good quality of life.
“Since inception, there have been staggered activities here and there but there has not been any national policy that will guide the palliative care. It will be standardised across the country,’’ he added.
Okpikpi said that October was devoted to cancer, especially breast cancer, adding that the ministry would not limit the event to only breast cancer.
“We will talk about other common cancers, cervical, colorectal among others; it is a forum for knowledge sharing and awareness creation,’’ he said.
He added that practical sessions such as screenings would have been part of the events for the cancer programme if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did screenings in 2019, we partnered the Women Affairs Ministry; we screened rural women for breast and cervical cancers but that will not happen this year because of the COVID-19.’’
Okpikpi said the event would open discussion on modern ways of managing cancer in the country and that the experts from overseas would also participate.
The theme for the week-long event is “Cancer in Nigeria in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond”.