In Nigeria, some 100 000 new cases of cancer occur every year, with high case fatality ratio. With approximately 20% of the population of Africa and slightly more than half the population of West Africa, Nigeria contributed 15% to the estimated 681 000 new cases of cancer that occurred in Africa in 2008. A study shows that the commonest cancers in Nigeria in 2009–2010 were breast and cervical cancer among women and prostate cancer among men. It found significant increase in the incidence of breast cancer compared to historical records while the incidence of cervical cancer was relatively stable. Incidence of breast cancer in Nigeria has risen significantly.
Increase in breast cancer has become a very serious burden to individuals, their family and the healthcare system, because, most of the women present late stages III & IV breast cancer; at this advanced stages the cancerous cells have possibly spread to vital organs of the patient. In Nigeria, about 70% of these cancer patients present late stages (III & IV) with few patients having access to the limited treatment facilities. Advanced breast cancer is one of the rationales for the low survivor rate of breast cancer in Nigeria. It is on this premise that Project PINK BLUE engaged 99 nurses and retired midwives from the six(6) area councils of Abuja FCT on advanced breast cancer.
The sensitization forum on advanced breast cancer took place on 30th March, 2016 at the National Trauma Centre of the National Hospital Abuja, it was under the project known as “Breast Cancer Navigation and Palliative Programme (BCNPP)”, which is supported by Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and Pfizer Oncology in partnership with Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH). Renown professionals facilitated different topical issues bothering on advanced breast cancer and how nurses and retired midwives can be agents of change in caring for women battling with advanced breast cancer.
The Speakers include Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, a renowned cancer control advocate and professor of radiology who made a presentation on the topic “Nurses as Change Agents in Advanced Breast Cancer in Nigeria”; Mal. Umar Aliyu, a Deputy Director of Nursing School, National Hospital did justice to the topic “The Relevance of Nurses in Advanced Breast Cancer Care in Nigeria” while Runcie C.W. Chidebe, a cancer control advocate and the Executive Director of Project PINK BLUE threw more light on Breast Cancer Navigation and Palliative Programme(BCNPP) and how retired midwives and nurses can make a difference advanced breast cancer care.
The participants learnt unique and flexible approaches to advanced breast cancer and the challenges to healthcare professional. Nurses (retired and active), community healthcare workers and Social Workers are the driven force of this programme and as such the Forum was aimed at building their capacity to adequately face and ward off the burden that come with cancer diagnosis and treatment. As the fight against breast cancer rages on, there is great need for healthcare professionals as well as other interest groups to keep abreast with healthcare best practices in providing equal opportunity services to cancer patients at any stage of their treatment and care including palliative care. Nurses are extremely in healthcare system, because they are usually the first practitioners to meet with patients and possibly the last as the case may be.
Other highlights of the event include panel of discussions and the segment for the Focus Group Discussion (FGD). During the panel of discussion, Participants engaged the Panelists in series of questions and discussions bothering on cancer diagnosis, treatment and palliative as well as the patient navigation programme. The Focus Group Discussion (FGD) session was scientifically modelled to elicit answers from the participants so as assess the needs of cancer patients’ caregivers and the burden of cancer care on them.
The impact of the Sensitization Forum saw the Participants excited and willingly volunteered to be part of the impact making project. Certificates of participation were awarded to all the participants. The forum was a foundation laying steps towards the identification of Navigators and Community Health Workers as vanguards for the Breast Cancer Navigation and Palliative Programme.
It is believed that this first patient navigation programme will make a lot of difference in connecting people at risk of cancer and people already diagnosed with advanced breast cancer to where they can receive care, treatment, support, oncologists, referral, and other needs. As a pilot project in Abuja, it will create a platform for expansion to other states in Nigeria.