By Edoamaowo Udeme, Abuja
As cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, The World Health Organisation, (WHO) has called for  
sustained action to beat it as Nigeria records 9.6 million deaths.
Marking the 2019 World Cancer Day  in Abuja, with the theme “I am and I will”,  Dr Clement Peter, Officer in Charge, (OIC) WHO, Nigeria,  noted that new cases and deaths from cancer continue to rise and if care is not taken, will be doubled by 2040. 
“In 2012, there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths, whereas in 2018 there were 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths”. he noted
“If current trends are maintained, the cancer burden in Africa is projected to double from 1,055,172 new cancer cases in 2018 to 2,123,245 cancer cases by 2040”. Peter stressed.
“This theme was chosen as a reminder of the important actions that we can – and need – to take as individuals, groups, communities and political leaders, to reduce the impact of cancer on our lives”. said Peter.
Blaming poverty, late and poor cancer diagnosis and lack of medical cover as one of the key drivers of increasing cancer burden in Africa,  Peter added that, exposure to known cancer risk factors, such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diets, alcohol use and environmental pollution is also the reason for cancer spread.
“Additional contributing factors in the rise of the cancer burden in Africa are the epidemiologic and demographic changes that are currently taking place”.
” In short, the cancer burden is increasing as Africans are now living longer, in large part because of improvements in the control of the infectious causes of mortality and morbidity”.  
” There is also the absence of widely available information on the early signs and symptoms of cancer, late diagnosis, misdiagnosis, absence/weak referral systems, difficult access to care and treatment, catastrophic costs of treatment and medicines, and weak health care systems”.
“Only 26% of low-income countries around the world reported having public sector pathology services, and only 30% of these countries had cancer treatment services; however, 90% of high-income countries can offer such services”.
While noting the significant progress being  achieved in diagnostics and treatment of cancers in high-income countries,  He stressed that  this has resulted in better prognosis and enhanced survival rates for cancers in high-income countries with 5-year survival as high as 80-90% for cancers that can be treated when detected early.
” Sadly, most cancer patients in Africa are diagnosed at a late stage and the prognosis for a positive outcome is lessened, even in cases where treatment is available and affordable”.
“Cancer diagnosis should not represent a death sentence in Africa, nor should it lead to catastrophic expenditure following out-of-pocket payments for diagnostic, treatment and palliative care.
Stressing the commitment for achieving the  Universal Health Coverage and a the larger push to leave no one behind, Peter urged that “Thousands of lives can be saved in Africa with proper cancer prevention, early detection, access to proper treatment and care”.
“I urge all stakeholders and specifically African governments, be they at the local, state, provincial, national or supranational level, to create an environment in which cancer risk factors, for example alcohol and tobacco use, are reduced, and citizens maintain good levels of physical activity, healthy bodyweight, and good nutrition”.
He encouraged individuals to engage in and adopt healthy lifestyle habits. “Behavioural activities, such as eating a proper diet, both in the type and amount of food, engaging in appropriate exercise and physical activity, and receiving appropriate clinical interventions to prevent cancer, are important”.
“Remaining healthy also involves vaccination against cancer, such as liver and cervical cancers, avoiding known causes of cancer, and careful management of exposure to other carcinogens”. he added