The President, Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), Dr Adamu Umar, has called on the Federal Government to incorporate comprehensive cancer services into National Health Insurance benefit packages to ensure Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Umar made the appeal at a news conference in Abuja to commemorate the 2024 World Cancer Day (WCD) with the theme “Close the Care Gap.”
Annually celebrated around the globe on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day as a global observance is led by the Union for International Cancer Control to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration written in 2008 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
The NCS president, therefore, said though there was some level of coverage for cancer under the National Health Insurance Act (NHIA), “it is not holistic.
“There are some aspects of cancer that are covered under the insurance scheme. For example, the insurance coverage gives patients the ability to have one annual medical checkup.
“This is something that a lot of civil servants are not even aware of. Now, we are talking about prevention, we are talking about screening and these are all aspects of cancer care.
“If insurance is properly applied, particularly in the non-formal sector, the amount of resources we generate will go a long way
in catering for those populations that are usually falling ill.
“So, we should intensify and ensure Universal Health Coverage; that there is insurance cover for all Nigerians in the formal
and informal sector.”
Umar also advocated for more budgetary provision for health generally, adding that “with infrastructure development in the
sector, not only cancer patients will feel the impact but all Nigerians.”
He also called on the Federal Government to regulate carcinogenic products such as tobacco and alcohol to reduce rising cases.
He described carcinogens as cancer causing substances, organisms or agents and urged the Federal Government to control production,
sale and marketing of tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods, and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs).
According to him, regulating these substances will help to prevent cancer and reduce the burden.
The president also called for increased funding for cancer research and collaboration among researchers, healthcare providers and
He also called for patient-centred care by encouraging patient engagement in care decisions.
He urged government to “establish cancer registries, guide policy decisions and resource allocation for effective control strategies.
“Implement national cancer strategy based on evidence, ensuring coordinated approach.”
Umar explained that to address the issue of late diagnosis and treatment, Federal Government should implement routine screening
programmes and integrate them into existing healthcare systems.
He also appealed for the utilisation of telemedicine and advocacy to more remote populations for early detection and cost effective treatment.
He urged citizens to share cancer knowledge, embrace government initiatives like the national HPV Vaccine rollout, adopt healthy lifestyles and obtain insurance coverage to unite against the menace.
The Director-General, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Prof. Usman Aliyu, said there had been remarkable
progress in advancing cancer care in the country.
According to him, government is committed to driving progress in cancer care and this extends to fostering innovation and discovery through substantial funding for research.
“The strategic procurement of advanced cancer treatment equipment represents a significant stride toward closing the care gap,
and enhancing the infrastructure of cancer care across the country.
“Improvement in cancer health fund and the introduction of childhood cancer counterpart fund has been a pivotal step in our pursuit of equitable and sustainable financing for cancer care and treatment.
“This initiative fulfils a critical need, providing the necessary resources to enhance patient care and support across the country,” Aliyu added.
He reiterated NICRAT’s commitment to advancing the fight against cancer through research, education, and advocacy.
He said that the goal is to prevent, diagnose, treat, as well as to enhance the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors.