The Asaigbo Cancer Care Initiative, powered by Queen Serah Ugochinyere Ukasoanya, the Asaigbo Queen 2018/2019, through the President, Asaigbo Foundation, Prince Mike Akubueze, was last Thursday, September 6, 2019 launched at the popular Ahiajoku Cultural Centre, along Concord Boulevard Owerri, Imo State. The ceremony drew commendations and support from across the country, attracting many prominent Nigerians, especially the women folk, who are more vulnerable.

In her speech at the occasion, the Permanent Secretary, Imo State Ministry of Health, who was represented by the Medical Director of FMC, Owerri, Dr. Kingsley Achigbu, described, “cancer as a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatics”.

Cancer, she announced, has become a major source of morbidity and mortality globally and responsible for at least 72,000 reported deaths in Nigeria and 102,000 new cases every year. She also identified the menace of cancer as a major source of concern to all, due essentially to it’s destructive tendencies in family life and colossal amount of funds required for diagnosis and cure or treatment. “Death of cancer patient often means the loss of a breadwinner or total impoverishment of survivors due to high cost of treatment, which often drains the resources available to victims and their family members”, she stated.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), whereas cervical cancer kills one Nigerian every hour, breast cancer kills 40 Nigerians daily, while prostate cancer kills an average 26 men daily. She summarized her speech by informing all that the three common cancers kill an average of 90 Nigerians daily, mainly due to poor infrastructure and lack of financial capability to deal with the problem. She recommended Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccine and hepatitis B vaccine, as curative measures after locating causative agents through mammographic screening.

In her own speech, Mrs Obianuju Monde-Anumihe, founder, “survivors Voice International and key-note speaker”, explained that the global cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million, new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. She mentioned lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer as the three top incidences that are deadliest.

She decried the absence of a functional mammography machine in government hospitals in Imo State and recommended early detection as the key to survival. “If cancer is detected and treated early, the survival rate for most types of cancer can exceed 90 percent”, she stressed.

She then recommended regular screenings, and quality career as vital to improving the outcomes of this situation for millions of people. “We must be dedicated to providing screening and treatment options in our state”, she added, in addition to re-stating that “we must also do more to educate people about cancer. Awareness leads to early detection, and early detection saves lives. The Bible says in Hosea chapter 4 verse 6 “My people perish for lack of knowledge”.

Continuing, the guest speaker, Mrs. Monde-Anumihe averred thus, “I’m sure some of you know someone whose life has been affected by cancer or whose life was tragically cut short by the disease. My life was affected by cancer. Thirteen years ago, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. I am fortunate to be alive today because it was detected at early stage, and treated immediately. I consider myself blessed, because this happened in a country where I have access to quality medical care. Additionally, I was supported with love from family and friends as the thought of cancer diagnosis can be very devastating”.

In Nigeria, many people do not have the same opportunity to receive quality medical care as I did. While the number of cancer diagnoses continues to increase at an unacceptably high rate, the overall survival rate is decreasing, due to many advanced-stage diagnoses. In most cases, the earliest presenting state is stage two.

We are beginning to turn the tide against cancer. The launch of the Cancer Care Initiative and the endorsement of this event from several government officials give us hope for the future. We honor the Governor of Imo State for his dedication to improving the lives, health, and well-being of the people of Imo state. We are proud to witness this administration rebuild our state and we implore the governor to look critically into the state of our healthcare system”, she concluded.

The Special Guest of the occasion was Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, a daughter of Imo State and wife of the Governor of Ondo State, Chief (Barr) Akeredolu (SAN).