Expert Opinion

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

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African Cancer Taskforce (#ACT) is an effort to bring coordinated critical mass to tackle alarming cancer incidence and mortality rates in Africa. The initiative, developed Dr. Imoh Okon, an assistant professor of molecular medicine with expertise in oncology and cardio-metabolic disorders, is proposed as a realistic and achievable model. “As an advocate and professional, I have been actively involved with several initiatives aimed at tackling cancer, however a recent article by Chioma Obinna provided compelling narration on the dire situation facing cancer patients in Nigeria”.

Of the approximately 100,000 Nigerians diagnosed with cancer yearly, 80,000 (4 in 5 cases) will die!! This is a staggering and sad statistic of real lives lost to a disease that can be CURED if detected early, and managed properly. Read Chioma’s full article at ‘ We beat cancer against all odds, Survivor’s heartbreaking stories‘ . In Nigeria, as with many parts of Africa, cancer patients face many challenges, some of which include: poor access, lack of standard diagnostic or management team, unaffordable costs of medications and untrained personnel. Stories abound of hospital cleaning staff, rather than trained medical professionals mixing or administering drug cocktails to cancer patients.

Furthermore, issues with stigmatization, lack of awareness or perhaps a poor sense of judgement appear to exacerbate the problem even further. These are the real-life experiences of our family members, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and friends. These challenges are overwhelming and appear insurmountable. In America, the Obama administration initiated a national cancer moonshot to “dramatically accelerate efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer”. Vice President Joe Biden who lost his son to cancer heads the cancer moonshot taskforce which recently released a report of activities and implementation plan to achieve its goals.

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