Nigeria’s rising incidents of breast cancer has become a source of concern among stakeholders and has prompted the ‘Choke Cancer’ campaign designed to increase strategic awareness among members of the public, coupled with government intervention.
Project Pink Blue, a breast cancer advocacy group in collaboration with Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dana Air, Lagos Television and Radio stations recently organised walk, race, and cycle against cancer, an awareness programme to mark the international breast cancer awareness month in Lagos, tagged ‘Choke Cancer’.
Cancer has become a serious public health burden; it is responsible for 3 per cent of total mortality in Nigeria, leading to 72,000 deaths per annum. This number is set to increase given that there are 102,000 new cases of cancer every year, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).
Runcie Chidebe, executive director of Project PINK BLUE said his organisation is considers cancer patients as survivors ( champions), “we engage in awareness, free screening, support people who are battling with cancer and also raise funds for them, because we believe that with the right care they will survive.”
According to Chidebe, breast cancer is one very deadly disease that should be controlled and effectively managed “there is an increase in the death rate of cancer patients, and new cases keep emerging which can only be curbed through creating awareness, screening, early detection and early treatment.”
The executive director further said that the walk, race and cycle exercise are meant to commemorate with rest of the world the breast cancer awareness month here in Nigeria.
“Most people are beginning to present with cancer at a much younger age, initially people used to think cancer was for the advanced in age but it is not so, even at twenty years people could present with breast cancer” Chidebe added.
“There is a decline in the health facilities in the country, that is why we asking the government to intervene. There is a lot role to be done in the area of medical infrastructure and cancer awareness because there is a limit to which the non- governmental organisations can go” Chidebe said.
Speaking during the walk, Darchy Zotter, public affairs officer of the United States consulate in Lagos said that Nigeria still needs to step up awareness around cancer which remains critical for early detection, treatment and survival.
“We implore Nigeria’s government and all other organisation to achieve that goal of increasing awareness and survival rate. We are partnering Nigeria through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on cancer treatment as well as early detection” said Zotter
Awareness is very germane and essential to the total elimination of breast cancer, it is essential to create awareness in the minds of people, propel them to go for screening and care when they need to” said Abosede Wellington, cancer control coordinator for Lagos state ministry of health, representing Lagos state.
Wellington added that every year Lagos state organises a state programme at the primary, secondary and tertiary facilities for free screening and testing in local government areas on breast and cervical cancer free of charge.
“I would say that there is a development in the area of breast cancer being that there is a higher response in the area of screening compared to the way it was five years ago. Back then we had higher death rates and much more intense cases than we have now” Wellington added.
Blossom Chukwujekwu, an accomplished Nigerian actor and Jegede Yvonne, Nollywood actress, were present at the awareness campaign and expressed commitment to join in the fight against cancer and stated that awareness will prompt people to go for check-ups, lead to early detection and early treatment.
Anthonia Obokoh & Chinyere Okeke
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Author: Anthonia Obokoh & Chinyere Okeke