Day Abuja turned pink against cancer
By Kemi Yesufu
All over the world, October is the breast cancer awareness month and the 5th day in the month is the Go Pink Day. Pink is the official colour for cancer as red is for HIV/AIDS.
In Abuja, dozens of medical personnel, NGOs, cancer patients, government agencies, officials and representatives of corporate organisations, decked in pink or a touch of pink, gathered at the Wuse Market to mark the day with free screening and talks on cancer.
Electronic products dealer, John Uche was one of those that benefited from the screening for cancer and other medical tests conducted on the day. He said of the medical outreach: “They made an announcement in market about today’s event, so I told myself that I have to attend to get screened for cancer.”
For Uche, he made the right decision as prevention is better than cure. “I know that some people suffer from breast cancer, cancer inside the brain and even inside their stomach. I don’t want to be among those that come down with the disease and this is why I came here to check today if I am free of cancer” he explained.
Cancer patients protest
While Uche and others queued to be screened, about 20 minutes drive from Wuse Market, many cancer patients staged a peaceful protest at the National Hospital over the hospital’s inability to keep up with their treatment due to the state of its radiography machine.
The agitated protesters who took turns to speak to Abuja Metro said they represent an estimated 400 patients from across the country who receive treatment at the tertiary hospital as it is the only facility with a fully functional radiography machine.
For many stakeholders, the revelation from the cancer patients is quite disturbing as the federal government during the Obasanjo administration celebrated its restructuring and rehabilitation intervention which it carried out in collaboration with VAMED Engineering. Government had said a good number of tertiary hospitals were equipped with state of the art diagnostic and treatment machinery under the FG/VAMED programme.
The aggrieved patients lamented that due to the breakdown of the UPS connected to radiography machine used for their treatment and the failure of the hospitals’ generating set to power the machine, they now have to wait for more days to use the all important piece of equipment.
The situation had led to the truncation of their treatment regime, making life more difficult for them. Fifty-seven years old Tom Ugah a prostate cancer patient spoke on behalf of other patients that they had no option but to speak out to draw the attention of government to their sufferings.
“I came from Calabar and you have people here from different states. The failure of the machines to work and the subsequent need to postpone my sessions has negative effects,” he said.
Mrs. Ezinne Nwanosike, a breast cancer patient, rued the missed opportunity of speaking with President Muhammadu Buhari who visited victims of the recent bomb attacks a day before their protest. She stressed that it was high time government provided radiography machines in the tertiary hospitals.
Dearth of facility
She said: “My anger is not against the National Hospital but the federal government. Nigeria has 36 states and you know our population. So many people are passing through this trauma we have, therefore, there is no way only one hospital (National Hospital) would serve the whole country. That is why Nigerians die of cancer. People need not die of the disease if they get treated but when we have only one hospital where the radiography machine is working in Nigeria, people won’t get treatment.
“I travelled from Abia State to Ibadan to Benin and I ended up here because at all those hospitals, their machines are faulty. This is situation of things, so we are appealing to the federal government, we are telling President Buhari that we need more machines at least in the six geo-political zone and even the states, so that patients can have access to treatment.”
Spokesman of the hospital, Dr. Tayo Haastrup who walked into the protest the same time Abuja Metro did, said management was doing its best to attend to patients many of who came from other parts of country, rather than turn them away.
Medic Aid Foundation intervention
Ignorance and the low level of awareness on cancer are bigger challenges in the rural areas and this why one of partners at the Go Pink Day event, the Chief Executive Officer of Medic Aid Foundation Abuja, Dr. Zainab Shinkarfi-Bagudu said beyond providing technical support at the Wuse Market event, her NGO has spent the last six years taking awareness and providing free screening to thousands of rural dwellers in northern states.
Bagudu who is the wife of Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State while declaring the screening open, called for even more collaborations to get the right information about cancer to low income earners in urban and rural communities. Mrs. Bagudu, also the founder of Medic Aid Radio Diagnostics expressed confidence that with properly coordinated events, more people will be sensitised on the disease.
She said: “We hope that with this kind of outreach people will be enlightened on the importance of screening for cancer and the advantage of detecting cancer early. We hope that women, young and old and even the men are enlightened about breast cancer. In fact in many cases it is the men that detect lumps in their wife’s breast.
“Then there is misconception that men don’t have breast cancer, they do. Studies have shown that one percent of breast cancer is found in men. So both male and female must be sold the message of screening and early detection through interventions like this”.
She added, “We want to be able to give answers to the common questions that people ask about cancer. For this kind of event, we work as teams bringing together government people and NGOs to work together for patients. This is because, there are people who get detected but they don’t have the money to fund their treatment,” she also explained.
Mrs. Bagudu said that another aim of the Wuse Market event “is to get the attention of policy makers to create reasonable policies for the country as we still do not have a screening policy for breast or cervical cancer in Nigeria.”
Treat cancer like Ebola
There is no doubt that cancer is one of diseases Nigerians dread. But the convener of the Go Pink Day event and president of the Nigerian edition of the International Cancer Week, Professor Ifeoma Okoye said the way Nigerians united to rid the country of the Ebola Disease showed that cancer that has killed more people is practically treated with kid gloves. Her words:
“What struck a chord was the Ebola Virus Disease and how everybody suddenly got to know about the disease because everybody was inundated with information about the disease and when you look at it, just about nine people died of it in Nigeria.
“Yet, the statistics for cancer shows that you have 200,000 people diagnosed each year. In terms of death, you have 81,000 people dying from the disease and 240 daily and 10 people every hour in Nigeria. There is no comparison, between these two diseases,” she added. Further making her case for a national commitment to fighting cancer, Okoye a professor of Radiation Medicine at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka stressed that people need not die from preventable cancers.
“Globally, it is said that one out of eight women would have breast cancer. Every sixty-eight second a woman dies from breast cancer and every two minutes a woman dies from cervical cancer when cervical cancer doesn’t have to kill anybody. This is because the virus that causes the disease, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has been found and an antidote to the virus has been found. There is a vaccine that is affordable and available. But we are still not using the vaccine because of our attitudinal challenges, we have ignorance, denial and poverty,” she lamented.
Courtesy: AtikuVision KebbiState