The Lancet Oncology Commission report says Nigeria lost about $5.9 billion to cancer deaths and other cancer-related factors in 2019.
The chairman, Lancet Oncology Commission for Sub-Saharan Africa, Prof. Wil Ngwa, said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the public presentation of the report entitled: ‘Lancet Oncology Commission: Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
While presenting the highlights of the report, he said that cancer was greatly impacting economies in the region with Algeria losing $2.6 billion, Angola, $1.2 billion; Benin, $209.2 million; Botswana, $500.6 million and Burkina Faso, $270.6 million to the disease.
Ngwa said that cancer killed more than COVID-19 in 2021 in Africa and had caused more than 28,000 children’s death in the region in 2020.
He added that as a result of COVID-19, it was estimated that there would be one million deaths per year by 2030 due to cancer in Africa.
Ngwa also said that the continent must address cancer with equal urgency, as it did with COVID-19.
He also said that the challenge of cancer now faced by Sub-Saharan Africa was enormous and likely to worsen rapidly if adequate measures were not taken including international collaboration.
Ngwa, however, said that cancer in Africa was characterised by late stage at presentation, delayed diagnosis, limited access to treatment, and poor outcomes relative to other geographic regions
Former minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said that there were various interventions by the Federal Government to reduce the burden of the disease in Nigeria.
He, however, said that what was most important was a political action and not just political will.
“The National Health Insurance Authority provides health insurance to all Nigerians and cancer screening is one of the key deliverables in that document.
“So, Nigeria is likely to become one of the first countries in Africa to have cancer screening covered by health insurance.
“What we now need to do moving forward is to go on with the idea of revitalising the eight cancer centres in Nigeria.
“Things are moving up but we need to scale them up because we have more than 200 million people, so we need to improve on access, care and funding.
He added that the Cancer Health Fund was a unique innovation where people with cancer were now supported financially.
As for the region, he said that actionable plans that should be explored include precision cancer control improving, improvement of data acquisition and cancer registration, designing healthcare systems that promote equity of access and increase of cure and care improvement.
Others are effective palliation as an integral and key part of cancer care, building and maintaining ace of the workforce, innovation and research and identification of barriers to implement and test strategies.
This is for the adoption and scale-up of recommended approaches that can substantially increase access to cancer prevention and treatment and increase survival.
The editor-in-chief, Lancet Oncology Commission, Prof. David Collingridge, said that the constant long-suffering and mortality driven by infectious diseases, malnutrition and poor maternal and child health in Africa was now being affected by the growing incidence of cancer and other Non-Communicable Diseases.
Collingridge said that the double burden of disease was a consequence of lifestyle and behavioural changes and a shift in the patient population demographics to an ageing population.
“The health of the people in this part of the world where fragile health systems are under-financed, under-resourced and understaffed needs to be a global concern and need to change,” he said.
He, however, said that the report advocates skin cancer research and an increase in the use of telemedicine and other new technologies.
According to him, the report emphasises the importance of implementation research in clinical care pathways and enhanced service delivery.
Collingridge said, “In terms of financing, the commissioners suggest that financing should be initially prioritised for the most cost-effective measures.
“Cost-effective measures such as vaccines for prevention of preventable cancers, more affordable treatments that affect the greatest clinical cost-benefit ratios.
“They recommend that transparent and dedicated revenue stream should be established with the input from international collaborators as needed to finance these specific measures.”
Collingridge said that each nation across Africa would need to adapt the recommendations to suit their specific situation, adding that with political determination and a coordinated approach across the region and the world, improved cancer care was achievable.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the commission was created to inquire into, describe and analyse the state of cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa and recommend key actions to address the growing challenge.
It brought together experts on all aspects of cancer control from Africa and around the world.