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As health ministry moves to eradicate medical tourism.

All over the world, cancer has become one of the most deadly leading causes of death. Indeed, findings from a research conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in collaboration with National Cancer Institute in the United States of America revealed that 12.7 million new cases of cancer was discovered in 2008 with 7.6 million cancer related deaths recorded, as at the year 2012, the number of death globally has increased by 100 percent to 14 million with a threatening projection that by the end of 2030, 30 million people representing 39.6 percent of both men and women living with cancer will be dead.

An overview of this frightening analysis further revealed that 56% of the newly reported cancer cases occurred in developing countries with Africa having the highest number of morbidity and mortality, owing to the geometric increase in population growth and the commonest being cervical, breast and prostate cancer. And sadly, Nigeria has the highest concentration of cancer cases in Africa as 100,000 new cases occur yearly and 15 percent death recorded representing 20 percent of Africa`s death ratio.

And contrary to the belief that cancer is a disease of the rich and wealthy, studies have shown that the poor and downtrodden also suffer from the disease and many have accepted their fate as they cannot afford the cost of management, unlike the wealthy people that travel outside the country for treatment.

But like every critical sector in Nigeria, the health sector was in an appalling state before now with no single federal health facility where radiotherapy could be performed in Nigeria and seven out of the teaching hospitals having diagnostic equipment that were not functional, leading to people travelling out of the country for cancer management and Nigeria losing foreign exchange as a result of the medical tourism to countries like India, China, South Africa and even Ghana.

The nomination of Professor Isaac Adewole, a renowned and seasoned medical professional with a profile that speaks volume about his ability to turn around the health sector especially at a time when he was the President-Elect of the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), was applauded as a welcome development as he was saddled with the responsibility to fashion a five- year strategic plan to organise and develop capacity of African physicians and nurses to manage, treat and prevent cancer.

There came a ray of hope for cancer patients with his appointment as he promised to build seven state-of-the-art cancer management centres in the country. This, however, looked unattainable with the global economic meltdown which plunged Nigeria into recession and the huge deficit of 48 percent in expected revenue. But the recent inauguration of the radiotherapy centre with new multi-linear accelerator equipment for cancer treatment at the National Hospital, Abuja by the wife of the vice president, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo has rekindled the hope of the average Nigerian.

This effort commenced in 2016 when Prof Adewole paid a working visit to the hospital to access the state of infrastructure and discovered that a brand new radiotherapy machine was purchased and supplied in 2013 but was not assembled or installed; he was unhappy about this especially after finding out that inability to construct a bunker where the machine will be placed to operate as part of the issues.

The health minister as a matter of urgency ensured the process of completing the abandoned construction of the bunker and for it to accommodate more radiotherapy machine in the nearest future while the non-functional components of the equipment were replaced, the bandwidth capacity was increased and the machine installed with accompanying training of medical staff to South Africa.

Mrs Osinbajo during the inauguration lauded the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health and the hospital management for making the facility a reality and described the death of close to 15000 Nigerians annually as unimaginable.

'I look forward to a day that the cure of cancer shall finally come, but I am delighted that despite limited resources, the country is taking giant strides in the right direction with the installation of the machine, there is hope for cancer patients as they will be helped with the facility,' she said.

Now, about 100 cancer patients can now use the machine daily, reducing the need for medical tourism, this is even more possible with the recent over $1million dollar financial commitment that the health minister got from Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) to purchase another brand new LINAC radiotherapy equipment to be installed into the second bunker at the National Hospital by January 2018 , and the promise by NDDC to install the same equipment at the University of Uyo and University of Port Harcourt teaching hospitals while the Kano State governor has also signified intention to purchase brand new LINAC radiotherapy equipment.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Dec 21, 2017
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