Following the increasing rate of cancer among Nigerian children, over 700 Primary Healthcare (PHC) workers comprising doctors, nurses, community health, and extension worker in Lagos, Ogun and the Oyo States have been trained on early detection, presentation, and referral to enable prompt treatment and support for children with cancer in Nigeria
According to statistics, childhood cancer is the leading non-infectious disease-related cause of death in developing countries, as thousands of children are diagnosed with cancer worldwide every year with more than 80 per cent of these children living in low and middle – income countries such as Nigeria.
Although, global data, mostly from developed countries show that pediatric cancer mortality has reduced exponentially over the last fifty years, local data for Nigeria, however, indicate that childhood deaths from cancer are rising rather than declining due to factors such as lack of awareness, missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, late presentation, delayed referral and high cost of cancer treatment in a country of over 200 million people where no healthcare plan covers pediatric cancer, geographical constraints, and paucity well-equipped treatment facilities leading to an advance stage and the eventual death of the child.
To address these issues, The Dorcas Cancer Foundation in partnership with the Lagos Business School Pan-Atlantic University; LBS MBA18 Healthcare Group; the LBS Sustainability Center; and Ford Foundation through the “Look Again” campaign trained healthcare professionals working at the primary and community levels across the country on early detection and treatment of childhood cancers.
The Foundation Director, Dr. Adedayo Joseph explained that the ultimate aim of the foundation is to ensure that every child that develops cancer is picked up early, diagnosed accurately, and has access to prompt and proper cancer care, adding that one major way to improve survival rates is to arm healthcare professionals at the primary care level with simple yet effective skills to improve and ensure early detection.
“You have to remember these are people with a high workload, working in resource-deficient conditions. Whatever you are bringing to them needs to be simple, time-efficient, and easily reproducible. They are the first point of contact for many children and families, from vaccination days at the primary health centers, to well-child visits, they see the children way before any specialist pediatrician or oncologist is going to get to them.
“When they see these children, we want to make sure they remember two things: what to look for; and where to send the child should they notice any of the signs. While malaria may be the most common thing they’ll continue to see, we are working to ensure they don’t forget to Look Again,” she said.
The Foundation Programs Lead, Korede Akindele, reiterated the importance of the project to the foundation and the country in stemming childhood cancer.
“We have been working on this project for two years and we have trained over 700 primary healthcare workers in Ogun, Oyo, and Lagos. The Look Again Campaign was designed in recognition of the fact that these healthcare professionals at the community level are the first point of call for children who suffer from illness, and are thus key stakeholders and a rate-limiting step in the early identification of signs and symptoms of childhood cancer and appropriate referral for diagnosis and treatment,’ he explained.
Also speaking, the co-champions of the LBS MBA 18 Healthcare Group, Mary Ehi Adamu, and Chioma Elijah for this project, the current MBA class healthcare group chose Child Cancer Awareness and consequently partnered with The Dorcas Cancer Foundation to bring the Look Again Campaign.”
They said the group, which is made up of young professionals are passionate about mitigating the burden of cancer in children through early detection and believes the best way to approach this is the proper sensitization of all stakeholders as this will help create positive ripple effects in terms of cancer awareness and treatment.