Some cancer specialists in Lagos on Wednesday called for a holistic treatment of cancer patients through palliative care to improve their quality of life.
They are Dr Abiodun Popoola, a Consultant Oncologist, Mrs Moji Animashaun, a Radiotherapist and Mrs Ebunola Anozie, a Breast Cancer Advocate.
The experts spoke separately at a seminar on “Palliative Care in Nigeria” organised by an NGO, St. Cyril Cancer Treatment Foundation, in collaboration with the Lagos State university Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
The theme of the seminar was: “Improving Life at all Stages“.
Animashaun, also the founder of the foundation, said that the palliative care was not recognised in the country as a mode of treating cancer patients.
“Palliative care is the care of patients holistically. The treatment is about treating the minds, bodies, having the right diet and the patient as a whole.
“Sometimes, it is difficult to do all that in the hospital settings.
“Cancer patients need to be more holistically treated; they need counselling, type of diet to adopt and other aspects of the patients’ lives.
“This will help the patients to scale through treatment, have a good frame of mind and responsive to treatment.
“This seminar is to enable people to know that palliative care is another cancer care that has been in practice for a very long time, “ she said.
Animashaun said that there was shortage of radiotherapy centres to cater for the large number of people with cancer.
“We only have two working radiotherapy centres in Nigeria for a population of about 200 million.
“We are starting to build chemotherapy centres evolving to radiotherapy centres so that we can give the patient a holistic treatment,“ Animashaun said.
Also, Popoola, who is the Head, Oncology Department, LASUTH, said that there was lack of comprehensive cancer control programme in the country.
“A comprehensive cancer control programme includes prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.
“Lots of people cannot access cancer treatment in the country as many of them present the case very late, while 70 to 80 per cent present the case at an advanced stage.
“By the time they present it, about 80 per cent of them have pain.
“So, for us to prevent them from having pain, we need to create awareness, educate them on early signs and factors that increase the risk of having cancer.
“Those who have cancer can present it early and once presented early, the possibility of having good prognosis is there and many will not experience pain.
“There is also need to create more centres for early diagnosis and treatment,“ he said.
In her remarks, Anozie urged the Federal Government to provide a comprehensive cancer centre to properly treat cancer.
Anozie, also the Chief Executive Officer, Care Organisation Public Enlightenment, a breast cancer awareness network, called for a re-orientation of health practitioners.
“Let us have a comprehensive cancer centre; let the health practitioners have a re-orientation, because many patients go undiagnosed and unattended to.
“Some of us cannot go outside the country to receive treatment; so the government should invest more in the health of its citizens by providing the necessary facilities for various ailments.
“It will go a long way to reducing the burden of diseases and the cost of treatment outside the country,“ she said.
Anozie urged women to examine their breasts at least, twice a year for early detection of cancer.
“We are appealing to women to come forward; cancer is not a death sentence and can be cured if detected early,“ she said.