Nigeria has only 14 radiotherapy centres and no functional gamma camera to serve its 216 million population, the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority revealed on Monday.
This was made known by the Director-General of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Dr Yau Idris, at the 2024 World Cancer Day Symposium themed ‘Economy, Tax and Cancer Control: The Exit of Pharmaceutical Companies from Nigeria,” organised by Project Pink Blue in Abuja’.
“We have serious problems, we have nothing to celebrate today but to lament. Looking at the case of Nigeria, we have only 14 radiotherapy centres in the country, nine of them belong to the government, only five of them belong to private, and only six of them are licensed by the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which means the others are not safe.
“In terms of equipment, Nigeria has only seven Linacs (Linear accelerators), for a population of 200 million people. South Africa has 92, and Egypt has 76.
“Even the 14 (radiotherapy centres) we have are not functioning, because today, they are functioning, tomorrow they are not functioning,” he lamented.
Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment that can be used to try to cure cancer, reduce the chance of cancer coming back, or help to relieve symptoms.
The World Health Organisation said over 50 per cent of cancer patients require radiotherapy as part of cancer care, and it is frequently used to treat the most common types, such as breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer.
According to the National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, over 120,000 new cancer cases are recorded yearly in Nigeria, and an estimated 78,000 Nigerians died in 2020, due to cancer-related complications.
Speaking further, the NNRA boss said there is no functional gamma camera in the country.
The gamma camera is an imaging technique used to carry out functional scans of the brain, thyroid, lungs, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, and skeleton.
He added, “If you go to the Nuclear Medicine, we have only two Nuclear Medicine centres that have gamma cameras and both of them are down at the National Hospital, Abuja, and the University College Hospital, Ibadan. Virtually, there’s no gamma camera in Nigeria that is working, whereas a country like Tunisia with a population of twenty-something million has about 14 of them working.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Tunji Alausa said the Federal Government has concluded plans to build six new cancer centres across the six geopolitical zones in the country.
He noted that the government is proactive in addressing the burden of cancer in the country, adding, “The government has concluded plans to build six new cancer centres across each of the six geopolitical zones in our country.
“The cancer centres will be built at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu; Amadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaira; Federal Tertiary Hospital, Katsina; University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin; University of Jos Teaching Hospital, Jos; and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos,” Alausa said.
The minister noted that the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare was able to secure additional funds to the N20bn appropriated three years ago for the building of the cancer centres.
“The amount that was appropriated has depreciated, there was no way we could use the N20bn to build the cancer centres, we had to make a presentation to the President and the National Assembly to give us another budget allocation to build the six cancer centres.
“We have gotten the additional funding that we need. The groundbreaking will happen in the next several weeks,” he stated.
Alausa said there are increased collaborations with various pharmaceutical companies to review the cost of chemotherapy with some international non-governmental organisations like the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the American Cancer Society, Pfizer, Roche, and Johnson & Johnson.
According to him, the pharmaceutical companies will be providing a 50 per cent discount on some of the cancer chemotherapy.