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IT started as a small swelling on his face and he believed it was nothing to worry about. He was a barber and knew nothing about cancer. He did not see a doctor even when the swelling began to alter his face. Some people may have provided a superstitious explanation for his illness. In Nigeria, ignorance and poverty cause preventable illnesses and lead to avoidable deaths.
WHAT caused his cancer? What caused the cancer of the patients in the cancer wards of the country’s teaching hospitals?
THE Nigerian environment is abused with impunity. The environment has virtually been destroyed in the oil-bearing South-South zone of the country. Oil spills, some of it caused by thieves, are frequent and gas continues to be flared. A baby was born without a scalp in one of the villages in the oil belt and some people may have been attacked by cancer.
MANY of the factories in Nigeria are owned by foreigners and some of them are more interested in huge profit than the safety of their workers. The workers perform dangerous duties without protective clothing and the factories do not carefully dispose of their hazardous waste. Indeed, they have been known to pollute streams with effluent.
TOXIC waste was dumped in Koko in 1987 and The Independent of the United Kingdom reported in its issue of February 18, 2009: ‘Hundreds of thousands of discarded items, which under British law must be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors, are being packaged into cargo containers and shipped to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana…a television that had been broken beyond repair was tracked to an electronics market in Lagos. Under environmental laws, it was classified as hazardous waste and should never have left the UK.’ And in 2010, a ship was apparently allowed to escape after unloading toxic waste in Lagos.
ONE Nigerian man was shocked when he was told by a doctor that he was a heavy smoker. His lungs said so, but the man had never put a cigarette between his lips. He was often in the company of a two-pack-a-day man and inhaled cancer-causing smoke. Lung cancer is a leading cause of death.
AN attempt to ban smoking in public places in Nigeria in the early 1990’s lost its way in a haze of hesitancy. A law was made, but it was not enforced. A bill to ban smoking in public places was introduced to the Senate in 2009. The National Tobacco Control Bill was passed by the Senate in March 2011, but the maximum fine of N1, 000 means that many smokers will be happy to puff and pay.
A stiff tobacco tax has made smoking unattractive in many countries, but even very poor people are able to afford cigarettes in Nigeria. Most smokers in Nigeria have rudimentary education and many of them do not know that cigarettes kill.
CANCER may result when the right foods are not eaten. About 40 per cent of cancers have been linked to unwholesome foods. Potassium bromate is said to be a carcinogen and was banned by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control(NAFDAC), but not all bakers have stopped using the harmful substance. Butchers in Nigeria place slaughtered cows on burning tyres to remove their hair. This practice poses a health risk to those who eat beef, as the fumes from the tyres are said to be poisonous.
CANCER will kill more than seven million people globally this year. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a non-governmental organisation which brings together national cancer-fighting organisations and the World Health Organisation, are working together to reduce cancer deaths by 25 per cent on or before 2025. They need the help of everybody to achieve this and this reflects in the theme of this year’s World Cancer Day, ‘Together it is possible’.
WORLD Cancer Day, the brainchild of UICC, is to raise awareness about the disease. Cancer can be prevented and can be treated when it is detected early enough.
THE symptoms of breast cancer are obvious, but some other cancers do not present with such anatomical bumps. Nigeria does not have many oncologists and many of the hospitals, even the so-called centres of excellence, lack even basic equipment.
CANCER patients suffer a great deal; it is a disease that inflicts terrible pain and treatment can be more painful than the disease. Chemotherapy is said to make some patients wish for death.
ENVIRONMENTAL factors are responsible for many of the cancers. These cancers can be prevented by having a healthy environment. Companies and individuals who abuse the environment should be punished.
THE barber, poor fellow, is probably dead, bringing an end to his lonely nightly walk. Information provided on a sustained basis may make it possible for others to avoid his cruel road.Share