Nigeria is far behind in modern cancer treatment – Indian Cancer specialist
A renowned Indian radiation oncologist (specialist in cancer treatment) Dr. Madhusudhan, currently on a visit to the country, says Nigeria is still lagging behind in the use of modern technologies needed to achieve good result in cancer treatment.
In a chat with journalists in Lagos, the Indian cancer specialist said latest technologies have made cancer a curable disease or in the worst scenario, controllable, just like some non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
According to him, with the latest stat-of-the-art machines such as cyberknife, tomotherapy , truebeam, ninety five percent of cancer is now either curable or controllable
“Now, people can live with cancer, we can control and make the people live longer. So, it is not the end of life for anybody. We need to introduce the new type of equipments and drugs into Nigeria,” Dr. Madhusudhan, who works with the Healthcare Global Enterprise Ltd, HCG Cancer Hospital Bangalore, India stressed.
The renowned expert in 2D Treatment Planning, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), CyberKnife, brachytherapy, chemotherapy and clinical oncology says Nigeria must endeavour to acquire the latest cancer treatment technology to reduce the current burden of the disease.
For instance, he noted that patients with breast cancer, which is the commonest form of cancer among women in Nigeria, would benefit more from such new technologies already in use in many countries for the management of breast cancer.
According to him, with the use of CyberKnife which is the only robotic radiation delivery system for non-invasive, painless, treatment for cancerous and non-cancerous tumors and other conditions where radiation therapy is indicated, people would not need to remove the entire breast in case of breast cancer or remove the anus in the case of prostate cancer.
“At the present, removal of the whole breast is not required except in very few instances where the whole of the breast is involved. The new chemotherapy can remove only the tumour,” he said.
“Once we diagnose that a patient is having cancer, we evaluate properly and thoroughly. For example in breast cancer it is not just to start the treatment for the patient, the first thing is to evaluate properly what the disease is bordered on and do some molecular analysis.
“There are many factors we need to consider before we start chemotherapy or surgery. There is a molecular aspect. Another thing is what stage the patient belongs to; we have stage one, two, three and four. So truly speaking, we are to do a proper staging.”
Dr. Madhusudhan noted that there have been 14.1 million new cancer cases in the world, according to 2012 statistics. He revealed that lung cancer remains the leading form of cancer in the world.
“After the lung cancer then breast cancer and then the colon/intestine cancer and we have other cancers. But when it comes to Nigeria, the most common cancer in women is breast followed by cervical cancer whereas in men it is prostate cancer and then the colon cancer,” he added.
He disclosed that the high rate of cancer death in Nigeria is due mainly to negligence and ignorance.
“People here leave cancer cases to advance stage compared to other countries. People here are not fully educated on the signs and symptoms of cancer. Even if they detect some lumps, they feel its normal and may not be cancer. Then they will go to the quacks or resort to herbal medicines.
“During the time, they have lost some useful times neglecting it and when it is finally at an advanced stage it will spread to different places and that is when they come for medical attention. So this is the cause of high mortality in Nigeria than other countries, this is the main reason,” he said.
He said since in Nigeria, breast cancer is the number one cancer and cause of death among women, “we should have a high suspicion of breast cancer when any woman comes with a lump. So mammography is advised after the age of 40 unlike in the other countries such as UK, US and India where it is at the age of 45. But families with the history of breast cancer should even start the mammography at least ten years before others.”
Dr Madhusudhan further revealed that cancer is “multi factorial” in origin and therefore very difficult to say that some agents can cause cancer. He however, listed some risk factors.
“For example in breast cancer, those who did not breast feed, those who don’t have children and those with longest stay of monthly period and late menopause are at high risk of developing breast cancer because the patient will be exposed to more of oestrogen and progesterone. But it doesn’t mean that definitely, persons with all these things will always develop breast a cancer.
“Even smoking, at times, increases the risk of developing a cancer but all these things do not mean that if a person smokes that he is going to get cancer, it is not right. So there are multiple factors,” he added.
“Generally speaking, cancers don’t have their own specific symptoms. Take for example, breast cancer, a lump can be cancerous and non cancerous. For any woman up to reproductive age group comes with breast lump, it has to be examined by a physician, it could be cancerous or non cancerous because it is very difficult for a woman to say this is cancerous or non cancerous. We are to consider many factors: age of the patients, previous family history, all these things are very important when deciding whether a lump is cancerous or not.
To lower the risk of developing cancer, he advised against: “A sedentary habit, eating more of red meat and saturated foods, roasted/fried food, eating less of vegetables roughages is prone to colon, breast, stomach and other cancers. So people in this group are at the high risk of developing cancers. But it doesn’t mean that those who eat all these kinds of food are always going to get cancer. Not all patients are at the high risk of developing cancers but patient with hepatitis B, C are at the risk of developing liver cancers.
“Therefore, doctors in Nigeria need to be availed on the new facilities available in other parts of the world. They have to be educated about what the standard is.
“Cancer is not like other diseases like typhoid or malaria where you can try one or two medicines because you can have a second or third chance. With cancer there is no second or third chance. You are to kill all the cancer cells first, otherwise the patient’s life will be at danger,” Dr Madhusudhan stressed.