NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF PAEDIATRIC ONCOLOGY
WORLD CANCER DAY 4 FEBRUARY 2022
CLOSE THE CARE GAP
On this day of commemoration of World Cancer Day 2022, the Nigerian Society for Paediatric Oncology (NISPO), a subspecialty of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria, wishes to congratulate all parents whose children have been able to fight cancer and conquer it and now living as survivors. Our hearts go out to those families that lost their loved ones from childhood cancer. For our children still battling with cancer, we say to you and your parents ‘Don’t give up.’ Every 4th of February is celebrated as World Cancer Day to increase awareness and understanding of the enormous cost of cancer in the community and the need for preventive measures.
Childhood cancer is increasingly contributing to disease and death in children in Nigeria. Unfortunately, many people in the country are not aware that cancer occurs in children and so when children develop early symptoms and signs of cancer, many parents often attribute them to mild illnesses and fail to present to the appropriate health facilities until the disease is advanced and difficult to cure. A recent study among parents of children with cancer revealed that only 8.1% were aware that cancer occurs in children. In addition, the government of Nigeria pays attention more to cancer in adults and extremely little attention to childhood cancer. Therefore, unlike in developed countries where 80% (i.e., 8 out of every 10) of children with cancer are cured, the outcome in developing countries like Nigeria is very poor with an estimated average of 10% survival.
Treatment for cancer in Nigeria is paid on an out-of-pocket basis and so unaffordable to many, coupled with the fact that until recently, the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) did not provide for cancer care. Recently however, some degree of care has been allowed for cancer treatment in the NHIS. However, greater provision is still required to improve our cure rates. Support from non-governmental agencies to support treatment of childhood cancer is also desirable.
To reduce disparities and inequities in cancer health on the international and local stages, we recommend a joint effort between the government and private sectors to pay more attention in creation of awareness, screening for early detection, and the need for early presentation to specialist health facilities of children with cancer. There is also need for better funding of childhood cancer including provision of more modern diagnostic facilities, expansion of the scope of funding through the NHIS, establishment of specific childhood cancer institutes or treatment centers as occurs in other African countries, expansion of the scope of coverage by the NHIS and free treatment for children. Indeed, survival of childhood cancer is higher than that of adult cancer worldwide and provides a leverage on which funding of children’s treatment should be prioritized.
We commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for the recent inclusion of childhood cancer in the current cancer control and access to cheaper chemotherapy plans. We hope this will continue and improve. To our children still battling with cancer, we pray that help will come to you and your parents to conquer.
Long live the Nigerian child! Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Prof. Biobele Brown
President, Nigerian Society of Paediatric Oncology