Lara Adejoro and Abiodun Nejo
Nigeria currently has less than 100 oncologists to cater to the medical needs of the country’s teeming population, The Reportr Door has learnt.
A minimum of 3,000 oncologists are needed in the country, it was further learnt.
This is just as the country has only 13 government and private health facilities with radiotherapy machines.
While data is limited, it is estimated that Nigeria recorded about 124,000 cancer cases and 72,000 deaths in 2021, according to the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The President of the Association of Radiation and Clinical Oncologists of Nigeria, Dr. Nwamaka Lasebikan, disclosed the figures in an interview with our correspondent on Sunday.
Lasebikan said, “We have less than 100 oncologists in Nigeria and the reason I said so is that people leave every day. So, let’s just leave the figure at less than 100.
“Meanwhile, Nigeria needs a minimum of 2,500 to 3,000 clinical oncologists in the country.”
Lasebikan said Nigeria has only 13 radiotherapy machines in the country, while the President of the Nigerian Cancer Society, Dr Adamu Umar said the machines owned by the government are frequently non-functional.
“In terms of the facilities, we have 13 centres with radiotherapy machines, with a total of 12 linear accelerators in the country. So, some of these centres only have Brachytherapy machines,” she said.
Umar said the dearth of oncologists was a major gap that needed to be closed.
Advocating for more cancer specialists in the country, he said “There is a need for manpower training. There is a need for fresher courses for clinical oncologists; there is a need for improvements in the welfare of doctors.
“Clinical oncologists and other health care workers are moving out of this country in droves as a result of conducive working environment, infrastructure, equipment and adequate remuneration and other conditions of service.”
He, however, hinted that the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehaire will inaugurate six radiotherapy machines in six tertiary health institutions.
Expert warns Nigerians
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Nigerian Cancer Society, Ekiti State Branch, Dr. Abidemi Omonisi, has called on Nigerians to abstain from unhealthy lifestyles and practices that may make them susceptible to developing cancer.
Omonisi, a consultant Anatomic Pathologist with Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, spoke in Ado Ekiti during the 2023 World Cancer Day with the theme “Close the Care Gap.”
He said, “Cancer is a major public health problem worldwide and one of the leading causes of death globally,” adding that research reports stated that “One in five people develop cancer during their lifetime and one in eight men and one in 11 women die from the disease.”
He said the global cancer burden could be reduced “through healthy eating, physical activity, limiting or quitting alcohol, knowing about signs and symptoms of cancer and early detection, sharing stories about their cancer experience, support cancer patients and survivors with physical and emotional impacts.”
The consultant listed some causes of cancer as cigarette smoking; infections such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Hepatitis B and C, Human Papilloma Virus; genetic factors; artificial ultraviolet radiations; undue exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays, particularly by Albinos.
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