From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Federal Government has procured and installed six new brachytherapy machines to intensify the fight against cancer in Nigeria by providing prompt and efficient radiotherapy services to cancer patients.
It explained that brachytherapy machine is a form of radiation therapy where a sealed radiation source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment.
It also confirmed that the machines have been evenly distributed to the six geopolitical zones, one each, to serve the needs of the people in the zones.
Minister of health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who launched the machines in Abuja, on Monday, disclosed that the machines were installed at National Hospital, Abuja; University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan; University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin; University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto.
The Minister also confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari, has also approved upgrade of radiotherapy services in Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH): University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH); Federal Teaching Hospital (FTH) Katsina; as well as Nuclear Medicine facilities at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and FTH Katsina.
The Minister maintained that cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and in Nigeria too, hence the commitment of the Federal Government to any cause that would improve cancer prevention and treatment in Nigeria.
He said: “We have collaborated with partners to introduce the Cancer Access Partnership (CAP) Programs, to provide quality anti-cancer medicines to patients at 50 per cent discount. The program currently operates 16 tertiary hospitals but I recently approved inclusion of all tertiary hospitals across the country.
“I also approved inclusion of diagnostic services, such as immunohistochemistry (IHC) in the CAP Program for optimal cancer management. We have over 3,500 cancer patients currently accessing care on the program.
“We also established the Cancer Health Fund (CHF) for comprehensive treatment of cancers of the breast, cervix and prostate to indigent patients, at no cost, in all six geopolitical zones. The CHF is driven by donors and contributions. We more support to enable us increase beneficiaries and expand coverage, with regard to other cancer types, especially childhood cancers.”
Mr. Ben Ubiri, the representative of the supplier, Stepcho Nigeria Limited, further explained that the brachytherapy machine is commonly used as an effective treatment for cervical, prostate, breast and skin cancer and can also be used to treat tumors in many other body sites.
He added: “Treatment results have demonstrated that the cancer-cure rates of brachytherapy are either comparable to surgery and external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) or are improved when used in combination with these techniques. It can be used alone or in combination with other therapies such as surgery, EBRT and chemotherapy.”
Meanwhile, the President, Nigeria Cancer Society, Dr. Adamu Alhassan Umar, in his remarks, highlighted huge cancer care gap in the areas of access to care, registration, research, budgetary provision, amongst others, thus calling for collective efforts to address the identified gaps.
Umar who was represented by Dr. Abidemi Emmanuel, however, appreciated the contributions of the Federal Government to the prevention and control of cancer in Nigeria via various lofty initiatives including sustainability of the annual International Cancer Week, creation of the Cancer Health Fund( CHF), CAP program.
Others were the inclusion of cancer treatment in the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), installation of modern radiotherapy machines in some teaching hospitals, HPV vaccination to adolescents, introduction of sugar and sweetened beverages tax, among others.