October 04

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Ambassador with a passion and mission

What is cancer? In simple biological terms, cancer is the term used to describe the collection of diseases that arise due to the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells in the body. These abnormal cells escape the ‘biological’ restrictions that keep the growth of most normal cells under control. In cancer situation, cells become malignant, growing continuously, competing with other cells for nutrients and space and, in the worst cases, spreading to other parts of the body. The majority of deaths from cancer are due to secondary tumours or “metastases” and not the primary tumour.

Below here is the data on world cancer statistics showing the 5 commonest types.

Rank Cancer New cases diagnosed in 2012 (1,000s) Per cent of all cancers
(excl. non-melanoma skin cancer)
1 Lung 1,825 13
2 Breast 1,677 11.9
3 Colorectal 1,361 9.7
4 Prostate 1,112 7.9
5 Stomach 952 6.8

The lives of most people who will read this article have been touched by cancer. Whether it is a personal experience or through a loved one, cancer is an unfortunate fact of daily life for most people. Families are drained financially due to the high cost of treatment and emotionally due to the challenges of caring for a patient with cancer especially at the terminal stages.

According to 2012 Globacan’s estimates, globally, there were 14.1 million new cancer cases, 8.2 million cancer deaths and 32.6 million people living with cancer (within 5 years of diagnosis). According to the same data source, 57% (8 million) of new cancer cases, 65% (5.3 million) of the cancer deaths and 48% (15.6 million) of the 5-year prevalent cancer cases occurred in the less developed countries.

Unfortunately, there is a common misperception that cancer is “not an African problem”. In reality, the risk of dying from many cancers is much higher in Africa than it is in developed countries. Many African countries lack treatment facilities and programs for education, prevention and early detection that can save lives.

However, cancer is increasingly being recognized as a critical public health problem in Africa. While communicable dis­eases continue to burden African populations, it is becoming clear that non-communicable diseases also require the attention of policy makers to ensure the health of Africans is safeguarded. Increase in life expectancy, changes in diet and lifestyle and lower burden of communicable diseases promise to increase the cancer burden in Africa over the coming years.

In the last three months I have been a team member for one of the stakeholder groups working to support the government of Nigeria to reduce the number of deaths from cancer.

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Figure 2, My work station at Clinton Health Access Initiative, Abuja

The table below shows the cancer incidence, mortality and the most common cancers in Nigeria, as reported by Globacan in 2012.

Nigeria – Globocan 2012 Male (,000) Females (,000) Both sexes (,000)
Population 84,389 82,231 166,620
No of new cases 37 65 102
No of cancer deaths 31 41 72
Mortality incidence ratio 83% 63% 70%
5 yr prevalent cases 67 165 232
5 most common cancers in Nigeria Breast, cervical, liver and prostrate in order of prevalence

From the above statistics, cancer affects more women than men though the survival rates are higher in the latter. The more worrying trend is that, the probability of dying from cancer in Nigeria is 70%.

In my next blogs, I will be sharing on my contribution and successes to the efforts being put by Clinton Health Access Initiative to reverse the above worrying trends.

And now changing gears quickly to recreational matters.

What do I do to ensure I relax after a busy week and that I connect with the people living In Nigeria? I have joined a hiking club and below here are photos from my first hiking experience.

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Walking through a forested area in one of the many Abuja hills