Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body which develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working.
It is a situation where old cells refuse to die, and instead, grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells and the extra cells may form a mass of tissue called tumor.
It can also be due to accumulated damage to genes due to exposure to cancer-causing substance called carcinogens. A carcinogen may be a chemical substance such as certain molecules in tobacco smoke.
The human body is made up of 100 million cells, but when just one cell begins to grow and multiply too much, the result is a growth called tumour even though Benign tumours are localized growths – they only cause problems if they put pressure on nearby tissues, such as the brain.
However, malignant tumours are cancerous, they develop if the cells continue to grow and spread, becoming life threatening.
While cancer can affect any part of the body, namely the breast, prostate, liver, skin and brain, it has different treatment options, depending on the type and how advanced it is.
Some cancer patients will have only one treatment, while others will have a combination of treatments, such as surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, a procedure in which a surgeon removes the cancer from the body.
The different treatment options are Radiation Therapy, which involves the use of high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours, while chemotherapy is treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
Immunotherapy is another type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system to fight cancer, while targeted therapy focuses on changes in cancer cells that help them to grow, divide, and spread.
Hormone therapy is another treatment option that slows or stops the growth of breast and prostate cancers that use hormones to grow, while stem cell transplant is a procedure that restores blood-forming stem cells in cancer patients who have had theirs destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
However, there is also precision medicine which helps doctors to select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on genetic understanding of the disease, including how genetic changes in a person’s cancer are identified and used to select treatment option.
Even though there are different treatment options, the issue of decaying, obsolete, unserviceable and in some cases the lack of equipment and drugs in hospitals and clinics across the country, as well as the cost force many patients to seek for help from other sources or remain helpless.
The issue of availability, accessibility and cost of treatment are essential for the functioning of any health facility offering cancer treatment toward providing quality healthcare for patients
This is because to attend to any patient, a doctor requires basic equipment to diagnose the ailment before prescribing medication, or treatment option.
Dr Abdulrazzaq Oyesegun, an Oncologist and Clinical Consultant, Oncology, National Hospital, Abuja (NHA) told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said NHA has up-to-date equipment for cancer treatment and management, and advised anyone who noticed any unusual growth or lump to go to hospital for early detection and prompt treatment.
According to him, Federal Government is trying to provide up-to-date cancer facilities across the country.
He said “we have up-to-date cancer equipment in Abuja and Lagos, the plan is for same thing to be extended to all zones in the country.”
He explained that all cancer equipment in the hospital were functioning, noting that the availability made it possible for many people not to travel abroad for treatment.
According to him, some insurance companies are now supporting the treatment of cancer, and wants Nigerians to seize the opportunity.
He said that the only challenge was the lack of manpower, as many doctors leave the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
Cancer patients in Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi have called for the provision of more equipment in public hospitals to ease access to quality healthcare.
They made the call in separate interviews with NAN and urged government to invest in the training of health workers.
Dr Auwalu Gajida, the acting Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) said the hospital is fairly equipped and is providing efficient services to patients.At the Federal Medica Centre (FMC) in Kebbi, the Head of Clinical Services, Dr Taslim Lawal, told NAN that “as a tertiary healthcare service provider and at the same time primary and secondary healthcare provider, we do have all the functional health facilities, depending on the need of the clients.”
The state Director, Medical Services, Dr Shehu Koko, revealed that the state has 28 general hospitals, with two offering tertiary healthcare services.
“Only Sir Yahayya Memorial Hospital and Kalgo General Hospital offer tertiary healthcare services, and only Sir Yahayya hospital is well equipped and with relatively functional health equipment.“As for the Kalgo hospital, the provision of equipment and installation are ongoing and the equipment are ready as the hospital is new.”
According to him, the state government in collaboration with a team of 100 doctors from the country, Chile and United States to offer routine free surgeries and treatment to patients in Kalgo hospital.
“For five years now, we have been in partnership with the American and Chilean team of medical doctors from Moses Lake Foundation in America.
“The doctors comprise consultants from Ibadan and Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, as well as Birnin Kebbi Federal Medical Centre.
“A total of 5,070 people benefitted from free medical outreach, including patients battling with cervical cancer.
In Kaduna, Dr Tokan Baduku, the Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, said the hospital has standard and sophisticated functional equipment offering services to patients.
However in Sokoto State, high influx of patients often delay diagnosis and treatment.
In Zamfara, a state of emergency has been declared in the health sector and the government says it is taking steps at reengineering public hospitals for greater efficiency.
In the South West Zone, a visit by NAN correspondent to University College Hospital, Ibadan, found that patient care, staff welfare and facilities had improved, where care for cancer patients witnessed an upgrade as the hospital install a Brachy therapy machine.
Although it is yet to be officially launched, patients have started accessing it and are being treated successfully.
The Cobalt 60 radiation machine, which is one of the few in the country, is also functioning.
“We are also in talks with a private company that deals with oncology machines to install a linear accelerator, which is the device most commonly used for external beam radiation treatment for cancer patients.
“The medical linear accelerator is the ultimate machine in treatment of cancer and it can take on scores of patients in a day, so cancer care in the hospital is picking up once again.”
The CMD of Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Idi aba, Musa -Olomu, Abeokuta, said 70 per cent of equipment in the hospital were in good condition and functional.
He also disclosed that some other equipment were still being expected from abroad. In Osun, Dr Rafiu Isamotu, the Commissioner for Health, said hospital equipment in the state-owned teaching hospital were in good condition and in full usage.
Isamotu told NAN that the state government recently received some equipment from Germany and Canada, which he said had so far improved the health management system in the state.
Dr Adewale Taofeek, a doctor at the General Hospital, Osogbo, said the recent rehabilitation and equipping of the health centres and general hospitals by government across the state had helped to furnish the institutions, noting, however that at present, the state general hospitals do not have chemotherapy machines.
Dr Jibayo Adeyeye, the Special Adviser to Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State on Health Matters , on his part, said the state had taken giant steps with the commencement of construction of a modern teaching hospital at the former State Hospital in Akure, the state capital.
In Ekiti, health institutions, especially tertiary facilities, appear to have improved considerably, going by the volume of medical equipment acquired overtime.
NAN reports that there are three tertiary health institutions in the state–the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH), Ado Ekiti, the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido Ekiti (FETHI) and the Afe Babalola University Multi- System Hospital, Aso Ekiti, (ABUADTH).Tunde Olofintila, the Head, Corporate Communication of the university, said the 400-bed hospital was to bring health care to the doorsteps of Nigerians as well as reduce medical tourism abroad.
At FETHI, Ido Ekiti, its CMD, Prof. Adekunle Ajayi, told NAN that the hospital has standard health machines worth millions of naira.
” I want to say categorically that the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti, is the best hospital in Ekiti: virtually in all our departments such as Surgery, Ear, Nose and Throat, Opthalmology, Dental, Radiology and Physiotherapy among others, world class equipment are available to treat our numerous patients.
“But some of the machines and facilities, that we do not have, though which we will love to have include CT Scan machines, MRI machine, Radiotherapy machines and Advanced Respiratory Care Ambulances.”
At EKSUTH, Ado Ekiti, the industrial crisis involving the management and health workers over the sacking of some staff had, however, scaled down normal activities such that those approached for comments were not ready to speak.
But a medical practitioner in the hospital, Dr Olorunsola Popoola, said the Chemotherapy and Dialysis machines in the facility were working.
Some patients, who spoke to NAN in Ilorin, the Kwara capital, however lamented the dearth of medical equipment in hospitals across the state. One of the patients, Mrs Dupe Aina, said most times, the medical facilities were not enough to take care of sick patients.
The Director-General, Kwara State Hospital Management Board, Dr Oladimeji Sa’ad-Aluko, however, said that the present administration had made provision for the purchase of hospital equipment in the 2020 budget.
Some patients at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH) Park Lane have urged the management of the hospital to provide essential healthcare facilities for proper healthcare delivery services.
They expressed worry that a teaching hospital such as ESUTH has no functional modern health equipment.
Mrs Josephine Ozor, a patient, said that the mammogram machine in the hospital had stopped functioning for a long time.
Ozor added that her mother was not able to go through breast examination when she came for breast cancer screening, explaining that “when my mother was referred to come for breast cancer screening from my town, we were surprised that a teaching hospital like ESUTH did not have a functional machine for breast cancer patients.”
Another patient, Mr Okwy Ibeafor, said that the increased number of patients that visited the hospital on daily basis was enough to provide all the doctors and other health workers needed to save lives.
“Patients in this ESUTH are always referred to private hospitals for medical examinations which ought not to be.
“It should be a referral health facility, which should be from private to teaching hospital because teaching hospital itself is a tertiary health facility,” he said.
A Radiologist and a staff of ESUTH, who pleaded anonymity confirmed that the mammogram machine was not functional, adding that the management was planning to put it into use as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Chairman Nigeria Medical Association, Enugu State chapter, Dr Ike Okwesiri, said that poorly equipped hospitals were common in the country not just in Enugu, and urged government to assist.
Okwesiri said that most individuals did not get job satisfaction in poorly equipped hospitals.
He said that the high price of some health equipment was one of the major challenges that caused many hospitals not to have essential and functional tools.
Other challenges, the chairman listed, were difficulty in accessing bank loan in the country and epileptic power supply.
On his part, the Health Manager, Enugu State Hospitals Management Board, Dr Okechukwu Ossai, told NAN that the state government had completed plans to create cancer screening centers in the three senatorial zones of the state.
Ossai explained that the centres would be equipped with MRI machines, mammographic machines and other health facilities that would help in proper healthcare delivery services in the state.
In Anambra, Dr Vincent Okpala, Anambra State Commissioner for Health says Gov Willie Obiano-led administration is doing everything possible to reposition health facilities in the state.
He told NAN in Awka that government had done so much to upgrade the facilities at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku Awka.
Dr Basil Nwankwo, Chief Medical Director of COOUTH said a number of equipment like the 64 slide CT scan machine, Mammography machine for testing breast, digital x-ray machine were being installed at COOUTH as well as a Mother and Child Centre.
In Onitsha, NAN investigation reveals that the General Hospital had been locked while nurses who were working there, had been dispersed to other wards since June 2019 and the hospital lacked Mammography machine.
In Abia, the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, Dr Azubuike Onyebuchi, said the second Sovereign Wealth Laboratory in Nigeria, being put up at the hospital, “would transform the hospital to one of the most sophisticated diagnostic centres in the world.”
Onyebuchi said that the project had reached 95 per cent completion and would likely be inaugurated before the end of January or first week of February, 2020.
The medical director said that the installation and test run of the equipment as well as training of personnel to man the facility were at their final stages.
In Ebonyi, Dr Emeka Ogah, Chief Medical Director of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital (AE-FUTHA) said that services in the hospital had improved to compete with best hospitals in the world.
Cancer, which is a debilitating disease, needs all efforts to tackle, as all hand must be on deck to stem its spread.
This is an Analysis by Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)