By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Last week, I wrote a piece about the need for a yearly comprehensive medical examination, particularly among the aging Nigerians, whose culture of such annual routine runs counter to the prevailing one in the United States. Despite the spike in deaths among Nigerians in the United States, the fact remains that most adult Nigerians do not subject themselves to annual physical examination for screening of diseases and preventive interventions.
However, a few Nigerians have taken an advantage of the advanced medical care here by ensuring that annual physical exam is part of their life. Chief Jerry Ken Ike narrated his recent experience as he alarmed, “Periodic medical checkups help doctors to spot and treat issues before they develop to something more complicated and life threatening.” “Cancer diseases are better managed and treated when detected early and the only way the early detection could happen is through periodic checkups,” he said.
Chief Ike shared, “During my last physical, my doctor discovered I had H. pylori. That was my first time of hearing about H. pylori. H. pylori are spiral-shaped bacteria that grow in the digestive tract and have a tendency to attack the stomach lining. H. pylori infections are usually harmless, but they’re responsible for the majority of ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.” Chief Jerry Ike continued, “It’s now understood that peptic ulcers are not caused by stress or eating foods high in acid, but they’re actually caused by this type of bacteria. About 10 percent of people infected with H. pylori develop a peptic ulcer, according to the Mayo Clinic.”
“When I Googled more about the bacteria I found out that about half population of the world have the bacteria without knowing,” Jerry informed. He said, “All my doctor did was to set me on a 14-day antibiotics after which I went back for another check and it was cleared.” “Thanks to early detection, otherwise I would have developed peptic ulcer,” Chief Ike concluded.
Nevertheless, our seeming reticent attitude toward our health has made it difficult to educate the Nigerian community on the benefits of early screening and preventive interventions.
In the Nigerian community in the Dallas metropolitan area, no person has ever demonstrated a stronger leadership in the preemptive care; or is a stronger advocate and champion for preventive healthcare and early screening than Keyna Omenukor, whose husband died of colon cancer in 2013. Mrs. Omenukor, the Founder and CEO of The David Omenukor Foundation, a platform established a year after David Omenukor passed away to create awareness of the colorectal cancer, to promote early screening of the disease, has been an ardent crusader for early screening for cancer.
Mrs. Keyna Omenukor said, “My late husband David Omenukor died of colon cancer in 2013, prompting a series of questions on what went wrong or what happened. The pains and grief of the preventable death of David Omenukor spurred his immediate family members to establish this Foundation to immortalize his name as a good husband, father and citizen. The Foundation is a major platform formed to fight colorectal cancer by creating awareness about the benefits of early screening and providing information to our people to prevent the fate that befell David from befalling anyone else. In this regard, the Foundation has held about seven health fairs, one in Garland Texas USA and six in Nigeria since its inception in 2014.”
Mrs. Keyna Omenukor shared, The David Omenukor Foundation (DOF), a USA-based nonprofit organization, plans to “reach more people and expand its activities to other areas like breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer. In the next one year, the DOF wants to create awareness to over 10,000 people through various outreaches,” including “the provision of 2000 fecal occult blood screening and 30 colonoscopies to high risk individuals.”
According to Omenukor, “Colorectal cancer is on the rise in Nigeria, the most populous nation in West Africa. Most Nigerians are not aware of colon cancer; yet it is one of the most common cancers globally. The time trends in common cancers in men from the Ibadan cancer registry in Nigeria show that, four decades ago, the top five cancers in men did not include colorectal cancer.
However, by the last decade, colorectal cancer moved from the tenth to the fourth position. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in Nigerian men (after prostate and liver cancer) and the fourth most common cancer in Nigerian women (after breast, cervical and liver cancer). Every two hours, a Nigerian is diagnosed of colon cancer. Additionally, 75% of individuals who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer do not have a positive family history for colorectal cancer. It is important to note that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and curable with screenings and early detection. More importantly, we do not know how many people die of undiagnosed colorectal cancer especially in Nigeria.
Sadly, gross poverty and lack of education, especially in rural Nigeria are contributing factors to why many people live with undiagnosed cancer that leads to eventual death. This foundation is concerned with the worrying trend and has the objectives of extending a caring hand to save lives. This prompted the initiation of the health fairs conducted both in the USA and in Nigeria.”
She continued, “The Foundation has since its inception been carrying out a crusade to inform and educate people on the prevalence of the disease as well as carrying out advocacy and enlightenment programs. It has also been providing free cancer screening tests to people especially the less privileged and the underserved in our society. Already it has organized seven health missions, one in Garland, Texas, USA, and six in Imo state Nigeria.” Keyna said, “My passion to stop preventable death which is one of the critical components of preventive health care has been firing my zeal to spread the doctrine of preventive healthcare system and it is this philosophy embedded in the Mission statement of the Foundation that has remained the driving force behind my expansion of the DOF medical missions annually.”
In addition to creating colorectal cancer awareness and providing free screening for colorectal cancer, The Foundation also uses health fairs to provide treatment and services in “Malaria, Hypertension, Diabetes, and Arthritis, Asthma and eye diseases and provision of reading glasses.”
According to Keyna Omenukor, The Foundation will conduct a medical mission this December in Imo State. Mrs. Omenukor said, “This time, the outreach will hold in Lude Ahiara and Umumbiri, Ekwerazu, all in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area on 26th December and 27th December, 2016 respectively. Then on the 28 it will hold at Mbaise Secondary school playground Aboh Mbaise venue of the Ezuruezu Mbaise and on the 30th the health fair will hold at Imo Foundation Cancer Complex along Umuguma road, new Owerri. Like in previous outreaches, two surgeons, six general practitioners, six optical doctors and 30 nurses as well as volunteers will be on hand to attend to the health issues of the people.”
“In the future, the foundation intends to build a diagnostic center to carter for people in need,” Keyna relayed.