Expert Opinion

African Cancer Taskforce (#ACT) Part II by Dr. Imoh Okon

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In Part 1, I talked about  coordinated efforts to tackle alarming cancer incidence and mortality rates in Africa. This is the second part of that discussion …

Concrete Solutions: A major advantage of fighting cancer in Africa, is existence of working templates from Western countries who have long been dealing with the disease. As everything African, modifications may be required in alignment with our unique culture and demographics. However the bottom-line goals or endpoints should be same, which include strong, and well-defined government intervention plans, access to standard treatment centers, properly trained professionals, well-coordinated awareness campaigns and proactive biomedical research activities. Secondly, addressing an insidious disease as cancer requires intentional creation of critical mass, with collaborations that cover a broad spectrum of medical teams, big pharmaceutical/bio-tech companies, corporate businesses, academic and research institutions, charities, international partners, and the media.

Cancer Centers: The importance of cancer treatment centers cannot be over-emphasized. Cancer centers imply carefully thought-out plan and design of medical facilities, or specialized units purely for the purpose of cancer diagnoses, treatment and management. It encompasses concise and specific short, medium and long-term goals, with realistic, achievable and measurable outcomes, as well as strategies at prevention, improving early detection and viable support systems. For example, cancer centers require functional standard equipment, such as diagnostic scanners and testing kits, plus well-trained personnel.

Routine services as breast mammograms, ultrasound scans, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and Pap smear tests, as well as Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines must be available, and encouraged. Unlike ill-equipped institutions of higher learning scattered around the country(Nigeria), consolidating efforts and prudent allocation of resources may imply having regional centers, such that patients from any part of the country do not have to embark on long journeys in order to access treatments. For a country the size of Nigeria, a conservative estimate would be a minimum of eight well-equipped and staffed cancer centers.

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