”A fight that we can win, with the right coach” — Cancer in Africa.

Everyday should be a world cancer day in Africa, cancer is too big of an issue in Africa for a one-day awareness. When 70% of death by cancer is from low-and middle-income countries, this illustrate a great public health problem in these regions, and the need for attention from the health organisations is an understatement.

Yusuf Mustapha

The 4th of February was a world cancer day. A day where people around the world spread awareness about the disease and the impact it has on the society. The questions have about this day is, what is been done in Africa about cancer? how aware are people in Africa about cancer? Join me to find out.

Let’s start with the World health organisation key facts about cancer and take it from there.

  1. Cancer is among the leading cause of mortality and morbidity globally, with an estimate of 14 million new cases in 2012.
  2. By 2040, the cases of cancer are said to rise by about 70%
  3. Cancer is the second leading cause of deaths worldwide and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.
  4. One third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks: low fruit and vegetable intake, body mass index, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and alcohol use.
  5. Tobacco use is the most important risk for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths.

I can keep going but we’ll be here all day. If you like to know about these facts, please check the World health organisation website.

The most common causes of cancer death are cancer of:

  • The lung (1.69 million deaths)
  • The liver (788,000 deaths)
  • Colorectal (774,000 deaths)
  • Stomach (754,000 deaths)
  • Breast (571,000 deaths)

One can hypothesized that deaths by lung cancer has to do with tobacco use. Unfortunately, the number of smokers worldwide is increasing every year, particularly in the developing nations. The developed nations have start to restrict smoking by creating a designated smoking area to reduce the number of second-hand smoking. Personally, I think the developing nations has the highest underage smoking compared to the developed nations.

There is no restriction on who can buy tobacco or cigarettes in most African countries. For instance, in Nigeria where anyone can buy a cigarette at a shop, and if asked, they normally said they were sent to buy it for someone and not theirs, – in most cases it’s a lie, but the shop owner or keeper don’t care, they are after the profit and nothing more. For example, here in the UK, not anyone can buy a cigarette or tobacco, even if you’re an adult but you’re looking young, they will ask for an ID card for age verification. This policy or practice should be implemented in the developing nations like Nigeria.

About 30 – 50% of cancers can be prevented. This can be accomplished by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategy. The burden of cancer can be reduced in developing and developed nations, through early detection of cancer and management of patients who develop cancer. several cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.

One thing we lack in Africa is early detection of any disease, talk less of cancer. Our healthcare systems are terrible, our government can’t provide adequate medical equipment for any kind of disease. For example, maternal and infant mortality is still a problem across Africa but in developed countries, this isn’t an issue. With the right hospital equipment, maternal and infant mortality would be history.

To answer the first question, ‘’what is been done about cancer in Africa? Nothing! Well, not really but cancer treatment in Africa is extremely expensive, most people that have been diagnosed with cancer in Africa can’t afford the whole cost of treatment. Only the elite can afford the treatment of cancer, and mostly they must travel out of the continent or country to receive treatment. This is one of the reasons why the prevalence and mortality of cancer is high in these nations.

The second question, ‘’how aware are people in Africa about cancer?’’. Not much! Most cancer awareness campaigns in African countries happened in the cities and towns, not in remote regions like villages. Some towns aren’t aware of what cancer is. There is little research been done in African about cancer and other diseases, – for instance, there are only a handful of articles on physical disabilities in Africa. Trust me, I know because I’m looking for them for my research.

When it comes to health awareness in Africa, we have a long way to go. It’s like the rest of the world are turning a blind eye when it comes to African countries. Most of the sustainability development goals set by the World Health Organisation has not been achieved and it’s due to expired by 2030 – if I’m not mistaken.

We as Africans need to start given back to our continent. I know some of us have started given back, what I’m saying is, we need to put more effort into helping people and ourselves, let’s not wait for outsiders to give us a helping hand.

Yusuf Mustapha

On a similar note, where are my African nurses and midwiferies, we need to spread more awareness about maternal and infant mortality. We can start by talking about it to our friends, families and communities. Let’s not wait for someone to come to a hospital or clinic before we educated them. We can use one of our Saturdays to visit remote towns and villages to educate both the men and women in our nearest villages or towns. Believe me, we can do it. Let us not let these two health problems terrorised our continent, – all it takes is a conversation. We’re community oriented, lets use that to our advantage, and reduce the number of mothers dying during childbirth and the number of babies dying at birth.

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