The Director General of the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Prof. Usman Malami Aliyu, has said Nigeria records over 120,000 new cancer cases every year.
Prof. Malami who spoke at the 7th annual conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) organised in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, noted that available statistics indicated that in 2020, an estimated 78,000 people died as a result of cancer related complications. Out of this number, 44,699 were females while 34,200 were male.
Represented by Malam Hassan Zaggi, he regretted that the statistics of cancer incidences and deaths occasioned by the disease was alarming even as he added that the Institute was determined to disrupt cancer in Nigeria through intense awareness creation and improved access to treatment and research.
According to him, the Institute has mapped out strategies to increase experts in the area of cancer by the training and retraining of different categories of health workers in the country.
“With these gory statistics, NICRAT is determined to work with all relevant stakeholders to disrupt cancer in Nigeria through intense awareness creation and improved access to treatment and research.
“We have mapped out strategies to geometrically increase cancer experts in the country through training and retraining of all categories of health professionals.
“In our commitment and preparedness to disrupt all forms of cancers and ensure those with the illness have access to the best care and support in the country, we recently launched three strategic documents.
“The three documents include National Strategic Cancer Control Plan 2023-2027; National cancer Research Agenda 2024-2027 and National Strategic Plan for Prevention of Cancer of Uterine Cervix 2023-2027.
“All these documents have priority areas of action that address governance, prevention, supply chain management, data and research as well as surveillance which are in tandem with the aim of the current leadership of the Ministry of Health to improve the health of all Nigerians.”
While commending the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration for giving cancer care priority, the NICRAT DG added that, “this was demonstrated by the recent movement of Cancer Trust Fund from the Federal Ministry of Health to NICRAT. This will greatly improve the operation of the Institute to tackle all cancer related issues.
On the efforts made to bring together critical stakeholders in the fight against cancer, the NICRAT Director General said: “Since my assumption of office over 9 months ago, we have worked hard to lay a solid foundation for Nigeria to join the league of countries that have all the sophistication to control, prevent, treat and conduct cancer research.
“With the understanding that cancer care and treatment need multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral approach, over the past few months, we have built partnership and alliances with relevant agencies of government including the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the National Health Insurance Agency (NHIA) and Civil Society Organisations working in the area of cancer.
“We have also engaged in international collaboration in order to woo and attract support from reputable global organisations who are into cancer care and research. Very soon, experts in different fields of cancer care will come to Nigeria to discuss areas they can support us.”
Prof. Malami, solicited the support of the media, critical stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the cancer space so that in the next few years, cancer would be disrupted, defeated and eradicated in Nigeria, even as he called on Nigerians to give close attention to their health by visiting the nearest health facility for regular checks especially whenever they have any abnormal feeling in their bodies.
“This will present the opportunity to nip any form of illness, including all forms of cancers in the bud to prevent it from escalating. implore you to join hands with NICRAT to fight cancer through massive awareness creation. Nigerians must adopt healthy lifestyle to prevent all forms of cancers.”