Pharm. Paul Ijoma, an oncologist with UBTH has said that right diagnosis leads to better treatment of cancer. He made the disclosure during the 2022 International Cancer Week in Abuja Nigeria. Excerpt;
Q. May we know you officially?
A. I am Pharm Paul Ijoma, an oncologist practicing with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).
We are here for the International Cancer Week, 2022 holding at the Nigeria Air force Conference Centre (NAFC), Kado Abuja. The theme for this year International Cancer Week is Improving Cancer Care, Bridging the Gaps in cancer care, trying to employ a multi-disciplinary team approach. The truth of the matter is that in Nigeria, though we are a developing country; we are also making progress in cancer care.
Now it has gone beyond just treatment. Now we are focusing on diagnosis because the truth of the matter is; if you get your diagnosis wrong, you are going to get treatment wrong. And at the end of the day the patient will not achieve the necessary clinical outcome, humanistic outcome and even the economic outcome. As we already know there are a lot of mechanisms that have been put in place to enhance cancer care in Nigeria especially one of the major strategies are provision of funds: like the federal government has come in by the way of cancer access partnership programme.
In this particular programme the patients get some of these cancer drugs at a very subsidized rate. And we also have the insurance programme with the national health insurance programme where patients subscribe and pay a certain token and they are insured of these drugs and they pay just ten percent (10%) for these drugs.
Then, we also have the; like in my own facility (the UBTH) we have programmes where we do micro dosage for the patient. The patient can share a pack instead of wasting the others.
So, these things are just strategies that are put in place to help patients to be able to afford some of these cancer drugs.
The theme of the programme is trying to tell us that focus should move to diagnosis because it is very important. We already know that cancer cells can easily immutate and the moment they immutate, the immune chemical property of the cancer cells will change. There are some companies that have put some structures in place to make sure that patients get these immune distro-chemical tests easily so that they will be able to determine the particular kind of cancer cell that is present in the patient before treatment will commence.
Like I said at the beginning of the comment, once the diagnosis is gotten right, the treatment would be gotten right. And of course there will be adverse drug reactions but with proper management everything will go well and the patient will achieve the necessary therapeutic outcomes.
Q. What is your advice to those who hide the disease in the early stage?
A. My advice is simple; they should come out, because the truth of the matter is that cancer when got early has a very good prognosis. It is only when it comes late that we have issues. So one of the major issues is fear on the side of the patient. We tell the patient, there is no need to be scared, come for your treatment. You understand?
And another thing that is affecting patients is their religious beliefs. We have seen that some patients, instead of coming straight, run to their clergy or traditional worshipers or maybe their Imams and others. But yes we understand that there is a place of God in the affairs of man. There is also a place of treatment, science treatment, which is drug treatment.
So, we are also trying on our own part to educate some of the leaders in this religious sector, that look, in as much as patients would want to blame, may be some spiritual matters. The truth of the matter is that science has proven that cancer comes from certain thing and it is not a spiritual problem, like what most people want to believe.
So we only encourage them not to be afraid of it. There are treatments. There are even treatments to guide against the adverse effect of some of these cancer drugs.
So there is no need to fear. Like what I always tell some of our patients. I give them this simple illustration. I say, first if not what God is doing, would he have given men wisdom to be able to discover these cancer drugs that are being used for the treatment. So, there is no need to fear. Come out, get the treatment. Thank God for a very good government initiative that has helped in discounting some of the cost of these drugs.