In what appears to be a challenge in the fight against malignant diseases, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lagos has raised the alarm over astronomical rise in the incidence of breast cancer in the country.
Addressing health care professionals at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos on 4 February, 2015, Dr Arinola Joda told a bewildered audience that cancer had become a major cause of suffering and death around the world.
In her presentation during the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) programme for pharmacists, which also coincided with World Cancer Day, the pharmacist explained that a report she got from a recent survey of population-based cancer registries in Nigeria showed that the age group most commonly affected by cancer in men is 65 years and above, while in women, cancers are commonly seen between those between 45 and 55 years of age.
“Unfortunately, the study also showed that there has been a 100 per cent increase in breast cancer incidence in Nigeria over the last decade” she said.
According to Joda, malignant disease, cancer and neoplasia are all general terms used to describe the uncontrolled multiplication of cells that have become insensitive to the normal growth control mechanisms.
The pharmacist also warned that women who drink alcohol stand a risk of having breast cancer, adding that the risk is heightened by the amount of alcohol consumed.
“Women who take two to five drinks a day increase their risk by one-and-a-half, when compared to women who do not drink alcohol. One drink a day only slightly elevates a woman’s risk. Secondly, having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer doubles your risk of the disease,” she stressed
Dr Joda however opined that pharmacists had major roles to play if they were to make a difference. In her view, these roles include identification and referral services, drug management (selection, storage and stocking, supply and dispensing), refill services, drug counselling and advice and patient counselling. Others are medication adherence, identification of drug interactions, liaison with patients/ other healthcare providers, pharmacovigilance services and identification of drug therapy problems.
It would be recalled that, in 2012, the then Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, disclosed that data collected from 11 federal tertiary hospitals by the National System of Cancer Registries showed 7,000 new documented cases of cancer, which corresponded with the average estimated 100,000 new cases of cancer reported in Nigeria annually. From data available, 60 per cent of cancers occur in women and 39.8 per cent in men. Experts have predicted that by 2020, the number of cancer patients in Nigeria will rise from 24 million to 42 million (90.7/100,000 and 100.9/100,000 in men and women respectively). It is also feared that by same 2020, death rates from cancer in Nigerian males and females may reach 72.7/100,000 and 76/100,000 respectively.
According to the National System of Cancer Registry, the five most common cancers affecting Nigerian men are prostate, colorectal (large intestine), lymphomas (lymph nodes), liver and skin cancers; while in women, the most common cancers are cancers of the breast, cervix, ovary, lymphomas and skin. It is documented that the commonest cancers in Nigerian women – breast and cervical, which constitute 60 per cent of all cancers affecting Nigerian women – are either preventable or curable if detected early, even with the facilities available in Nigeria. He lamented, however, that the behaviour of many Nigerians has contributed to hindering successful treatment of cancer.