Health experts in cancer care say there is need to upscale the number of mental health staff and support groups for cancer patients in order to improve treatment outcomes.
The experts said this during a Cancer Summit organised by a coalition of NGOs operating under the auspices of the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), on Sunday in Lagos.
They also teamed with the Nigerian Medical Association Cancer Committee to expand knowledge and bridge gaps in cancer care and management.
The theme of the summit was: “Building Strategic Frameworks For
Strengthening Cancer Patient Support Groups’ and ‘Breaking the Bad News in the African Region”.
Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, Professor of Radiology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, , said that an integrated synergy between cancer patients and their caregivers would strengthen health outcomes.
She noted that support groups would strengthen cancer patients’ coping strategies, reduce feelings of isolation, noting that the coalition was working on expanding the number of cancer support groups in Nigeria and Africa.
Okoye, who is also the Founder, Breast Without Spot (BWS), an NGO, said that the Ministry of Health in 2021 created the Nigerian cancer health fund(CHF) to assist indigent patients access treatment for cancer disease.
She noted that lots of people were unaware of the funds which were there to assist them get treatment for breast, cervical and prostate cancer.
Okoye said that research had shown that the three cancers – breast, cervical and prostate cancer- were the most common cancers in the country, noting that there are over 200 cancer diseases.
She called for increased engagement between the Federal Government, private sector and NGOs in cancer care to expand the Nigerian cancer health fund(CHF)
Similarly, Dr Denise Ejoh, Chief Executive Officer, Cormode Cancer Foundation, advised cancer patients to be resilient and always seek medical advice along their journey.
Ejoh, a cancer survivor, said every single cancer patient needs a cancer support group, stressing that the group was critical in assisting them after a medical diagnosis, understanding and bracing up for the journey.
She said that structured group interventions for cancer patients would improve psychological wellbeing, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve quality of life, coping and mental adjustment.
Also, Dr Elizabeth Akin-Odanye, President, Psycho-Oncology Society of Nigeria, said that patients should not equate a cancer diagnosis to a death sentence.
Akin-Odanye said that life was a continuum, advising them to follow treatment and seek psychosocial support.
She appealed to healthcare workers to infuse hope, assuage concerns, be empathetic while treating cancer patients and give appropriate referral to mental health experts when necessary.
Dr Saleh Yuguda, Secretary-General, Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS), said a multidisciplinary approach was needed to manage a cancer patient appropriately.
Yuguda said that multidisciplinary approach was a global best practice in cancer care management, noting that countries that adopted it had higher survival rates.
Dr Samuel Otene, Chairman, Cancer Committee, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), said that the group would continue to partner organisations in expanding knowledge to bridge gaps toward equitable delivery of cancer care in the country.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria