Nigerian Govt to Review Cancer Policy – Official

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The Federal Government of Nigeria is set to review the National Policy and Strategic Plan for Hospice and Palliative Care 2021 to improve the lives of patients battling with the killer disease in the country.

The National Coordinator, National Cancer Control Programme, Dr Uchechukwu Nwokwu, disclosed this on Sunday in Abuja, during an interview.

Nwokwu said that the policy, inaugurated in 2021, was meant to institutionalise hospice and palliative care services in Nigeria.

According to the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, “Hospice and palliative care is the active holistic care of individuals across all ages with serious health-related suffering due to severe illness, especially those near the end of life.”

Nwokwu said that though the policy was already being implemented, it was not up to the expected scale.

“We are very certain that by 2024, we will review the document and then review our level of implementation as a country and see what we can do to improve on it.

“We have a new government, and we are hoping that the renewed hope agenda will also translate into addressing palliative care needs of cancer patients and other patients that need palliative care services,” he said.

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According to Nwokwu, cancer, which does not respect any race, religion, or social status, can impoverish the richest of all people, because of the cost of care which is very expensive.

“So palliative care deals with terminal illnesses and not just cancer.

“For any illness that has the capacity or potential to last for too long, it is important to institutionalise palliative care as part of the care the person needs to receive,” he said.

Nwokwu said that sometimes someone might have pain that could not be removed but could only be ameliorated by giving some pain medication that could just palliate it.

“So while we cannot take away the pain, we need to palliate it so that somebody who has that kind of illness will not die in pain but also live a fairly good quality of life as much as possible.

“The policy document spells out that palliative care should even start from a point of diagnosis, and that means that you need to integrate the psychosocial needs of the person and even the person’s faith-based system.

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“If he’s a Christian, you involve the pastor or the priests; if he’s a Muslim, you involve the Imam or whoever can give that person some psychological or moral support.

“This is because they need to first of all accept the diagnosis, and the way they accept the diagnosis goes a long way in determining how far the person can accept the treatment that they’re going to be provided.

“It will also determine how much the person can also collaborate or participate in that care.

“So this palliative care is meant to start from the point of diagnosis to the end of life, and even at the end of life, it also involves bereavement; even the person who has lost that loved one needs to be integrated to be able to accept the loss,” he said.

Nwokwu said that many cancer patients who were diagnosed late did not present late, as they complained to someone or some facility when they felt pain or noticed some abnormality.

He, said that due to a lack of awareness or ability to diagnose at the facility, they did not get the needed care early enough.

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“If these health workers they present at the facilities are able to carry out certain levels of tests or screening, they pick up these diseases early, then treatment can begin early enough and the survival rate will also be higher.

“So what we want to do with the palliative care policy is integrate these services since we have said it’s going to start from the point of diagnosis.

“We want to integrate it into the primary levels of care so that people will understand what is to be done at that level and then cascade it or refer to it when it goes beyond what they can do,” he said.

Nwokwu noted that the palliative care policy was looking at integrating HPC services at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of care so that at these levels, everybody knew what to do at any point in time.

He also said that in-patients, or those who had terminal illnesses, could have the opportunity to receive a fairly good quality of life before they die.

 

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