The Chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Hon. Yusuf Sununu, has revealed that the National Assembly has appropriated a supplementary fund of N728 million in the health budget for the treatment and care of cancer patients in Nigeria.
He made this known on Monday in Abuja during an advocacy visit by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) to the House Committee on Healthcare Services.
According to him, “Cancer is a serious challenge in Nigeria – either you are affected or someone close to you is. I am also a victim of cancer loss. I lost my maternal and paternal grandmothers to cancer. My father (of blessed memory) also died of cancer. I know how expensive it was. We must place emphasis on prevention through early detection.
“In our committee we realize that the care of cancer is costly, so we have partnered with the senior committee in the Senate to ensure that in this budget, we introduce funding for cancer treatment to be utilized to supplement and support the care of victims in our six geopolitical centres of excellence of cancer treatment.
“We are grateful to the National Assembly leadership for allowing that provision to stand also to the President for assenting to the provision of sum N728,861,797 as a supplementary support for victims that will be treated in our centres of excellence in cancer therapy.
“It is different from the catastrophic health fund. It is exclusively for the cancer of the breast, cervix and prostate. We hope it will go a long way in reducing the burden of cancer care in the country”.
He further added: “I will discuss with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), even though cancer is not an infectious disease, but I think we can go ahead and develop case definition for it so that it can be easily used by our primary health care centres. This way, whenever they have high index of suspicion based on the case definition, they can refer patients to the nearest hospital for further evaluation, referral and definitive care.
“We will also look at vaccination against cancer with the NPHCDA so that we can as much as possible, strengthen our primary level of prevention”.
The President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Francis Faduyile, urged the leadership of the House Committee on Healthcare Services to push for a national policy both men and women are tested in order to prevent and control the disease.
“We are aware that cancer of the breast and cervix are the ones that afflict most of our women, and for the men counterpart – cancer of the prostate. These three cancers can be averted or treated if detected early. We need to enact the necessary laws so we can have a national policy on cancer control and prevention.
“In other climes, we know that early teenage years or pre-teenage for the ladies have been given vaccination to guard against cancer of the cervix. We are aware that there are some policies about the regular way that ladies can have a special test to detect cancer of the cervix. Nigeria has not had this. We plead that you pursue a bill that will form the basis of the policy so that women and men can have preventive cancers taken care of.
“Also, we are aware that the National Health Insurance Act is in some form of amendments. So we plead that you also insert cancer treatment in it.
“Some people with cancer of the breast, before they can have opportunity for radiotherapy, it may be up to eight months, and many die before being able to meet the queue.
“Cancer tends to occur at a fairly old age between 55 to 70 years, generally. These are times that many of the workers are either retired or are not gainfully employed again for them to have enough cash to treat the cancers,” he said.
He therefore urged the house leadership that the National Health Insurance Act that is under review, should also have a section in which the care of cancer should be added so that Nigerians can have proper cancer treatment at those age.