As the 2020 Cancer Week commences on Monday, the need has been stressed for increased awareness campaigns on cancer and early presentation of cases as key to successful treatment and management of the disease.
The 2020 Cancer Week which will be declared open on Tuesday by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has as its theme, “Cancer in Nigeria in the COVID-19 Era and Beyond.’’
The week-long activity, scheduled to hold from Monday to Friday, will feature a wide range of in-person and virtual sessions, discussions, training and networking opportunities for experts, policymakers, researchers, advocates and upcoming leaders in Cancer control in Nigeria.
In an interview with newsmen on Monday, Okpikpi explained that cancer is an abnormal growth of body cells which kills normal cells and stops them from functioning properly which might lead to death.
He said one of the key things the International Cancer week seeks to achieve, is to bring the consciousness among the citizenry on how to survive the deadly disease through early diagnosis.
“Awareness will be created to the public. When they are taught, they can do self-examination or when they see some symptoms, they can quickly seek medical care. Early presentation will save a life while presenting to the wrong places, taking things for granted or going to wrong places can worsen the disease,” he said.
Okpikpi, however, cautioned against presenting cancer cases to wrong places such as spiritual and traditional herbal homes.
According to him, while spiritual and medical solutions could work together, it is wrong to go to spiritual houses or traditional houses first, as this will amount to presenting the case late to the hospital.
“When we are talking about advancement of cancer, we are talking about when it would have spread to other areas. This is when it becomes an issue to manage. The Federal Ministry of Health has achieved a lot through the annual international Cancer Week by raising awareness on cancer and what could be done to prevent it,” he said.
He revealed that many of the cancers do not have cure, while their causes were yet unknown but there are predisposing factors and risk factors.
Okpikpi also noted that the week would be a platform to bring researchers together, adding that the National Palliative Care Policy and Chemosafe Policy would also be reviewed.
In his words; “We hope to review the zero draft with the intention of working on it – producing the actual draft. Since the inception of the National Cancer Control Programme, Palliative Care activities which have to do with chronic illnesses often end in death. So, we want to provide them with care so that they have good quality life while they remain. Since inception, there have been staggered activities here and there but there has not been a National Policy that will guide the practice of Palliative care. So we want to standardize the policy across the country.’’
Okpikpi further said the month of October was devoted to Cancer, especially of the breast, adding that the ministry would not limit the event to breast cancers.
“We will talk about other common cancers, cervical, Colorectal etc. It is a forum for knowledge sharing and for awareness creation. In addition, we had planned for practical sessions such as screenings, if not for COVID-19.
“We did screenings in 2019. We partnered with the Women Affairs Ministry and screened rural women for breast and cervical cancers but that will not happen this year because of COVID-19,’’ he said.