According to Global Cancer Data (GLOBOCAN), an online database providing estimates of incidence and mortality in 185 countries for 36 types of cancer, and for all cancer sites combined, it revealed that 18 million cases are estimated to be diagnosed in 2018 and about 10 million people die from cancer annually. About 70% of these cancer deaths occur in the low and middle income countries. In Nigeria for instance, 124,815 new cancer cases are diagnosed per year and 78,899 cancer deaths occur annually.
Speaking with Consultant Radiotherapist, Clinical Oncologist and Head of Oncology Department, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Prof. Abiodun Popoola, he said that cancer is the second commonest cause of death globally. He described cancer as an abnormal mass of cells whose growth is excessive, uncontrolled, purposeless and uncoordinated and persists in the same manner even after cessation of stimulus that initiated the growth stressing that it can be a carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, leukemia or cancers arising from the central nervous system.
He explained that one third of these common cancers can be prevented, and 3.7 million lives could be saved if measures for prevention, early detection and treatment are implemented.
The Consultant Oncologist emphasized that recognizing the unique challenges of the COVID‐19 pandemic which the world is confronted with is a major reason World Cancer Day 2021 is dedicated to the courage and achievements of people living with cancer and their families, as well as the nurses, doctors, researchers, volunteers, advocates and others who care for them.
He went further to categorize preventive measures into primary, secondary and tertiary and stressed that primary cancer prevention is best defined as the use of interventions to lower cancer risk.
He said “cancer and COVID-19 pandemic had greatly affected delivery of care for our patients, ranging from lockdown that upstaged a lot of patients diseases to practicing social distancing in densely populated city like Lagos, to reducing the number of patients to be seen per clinic day to having online clinical meetings. This has definitely affected the practice of medicine globally, and I believe a lot of innovations are in the pipeline.”
While elucidating on the theme for this year’s commemoration, ‘I am and I will’, Prof. Popoola encouraged the public that “whoever you are, your action matters, you could be a leader and make policies to advocate and invest in cancer care and research in prevention and cure, you could be a health care worker and advocate for those policies, create awareness and educate the public, you may be related to a patient or be a patient and still share your experiences and make your voices heard.”
February 4 of every year has been earmarked to create awareness and educate the public about cancer, as well as persuade governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.