By Al-Amin Ciroma.
Cancer is a global epidemic, but it is particularly bad in Africa, where resources are inadequtae and the health system is weak.
Going beyond passive awareness and gearing towards proactive prevention, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu, with her team at the Medicaid Cancer Foundation, is leading the fight against cancer.
“Cancer basically means abnormal and uncontrolled growth of any cell in the body. Any cell in the body that is capable of growth is capable of having cancer. The only exempt ones that are dead tissue such as teeth, hairs and nails. Any living cell is capable of becoming cancereous; which means, there could be cancer of the mouth, tongue, lungs any organ in the body, you name it,” she said.
She said this at the grand finale of this year’s cancer awareness event in Abuja, where she hosted some wives of the governors and other prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs), sport-stars, business men, politicians and entertainment industry players, to draw attention that cancer is real at a 10 kilometres walk, tagged ‘Walk Away Cancer.’
“…cancer of the breast is one of the cancers that you can do something about if detected early. The incident is increasing because we are more aware, and we tend to do things that other societies do that cause cancer. The lifestyle we are adopting now is also another reason for the increase in breast cancer. Women are smoking and drinking more, they exercise less, so all these things are affecting us. Our doctors are also more aware, and they are picking it up earlier. In particular, the month of October is the international breast cancer month, so that is why we emphasize breast cancer,” she added.
When asked about the anatomy of breast cancer, the Kebbi State governor’s wife informed stated: “Generally, it is a cancer of the breast tissue although there are various kinds. If you have breast tissue then one can get this breast cancer whether male or female although obviously it is more common in females. Breast cancer itself is usually detected by a lump but this doesn’t mean that all lumps are cancerous.
“Young girls have a tendency to develop what you call fibroidadenomas, it’s not cancerous, it’s just a lump of fibrous tissue, which doesn not always have to be removed once it has been checked. One of the programs we run in Kebbi is teaching young girls in schools about cancer signs and symptoms and other vital health issues like sickle cell which early intervention and awareness will help reduce the burden of.
Women are advised to examine their breasts every month after their menstrual period, and to seek immediate medical advice if anything abnormal is found. African Women above 40 years are adviced to start having mammograms. A mammogram is simply an x-ray of the breast tissue which can pick up changes the finger examination might miss.
What could have been other causes of the dreaded scourge?
“Age, lifestyle and heredity are some major reasons. Menopausal older women are more prone to it. Also, the less you breast-feed or the fewer children you have, the more prone you are to it; which is why women in northern Nigeria don’t seem to have much of it, because they have more children and breast-feed for a longer period. Alcohol consumption and diet is another reason for cancer. There is more processed foods in our society today, which not very good protection against cancer.” She disclosed.
At the just concluded stakeholders’ forum for cancer awareness in Kebbi state, Dr. Bagudu said poor awareness and lack of data propelled the conference.
So far, Nigeria is yet to have accurate statistics of the victims, according to professionals and resource persons at the forum.
Also, it emerged that required resources are not devoted to monitoring and treating the disease, while the prevalence rate is increasing.
Only three of the 12 cancer registries in the country function with reasonable accuracy, even as MCF is leading the path to start accurate and quality data collection in the three states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi.