Dr Adewumi Alabi, a consultant clinical and radiation oncologist, has called for more clinical research to improve cancer care, treatment and survival rates for patients.
Alabi works at the NSIA/Lagos University Teaching Hospital Cancer Centre.
He made the call during a virtual meeting organised by Pfizer in commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Breast Cancer Awareness Month is annually celebrated in October to create awareness on the impact of breast cancer, fund research into its causes, treatment and cure.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that female breast cancer was the most common diagnosed cancer type globally in 2020.
They noted that about 2.26 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 685,000 women have died from the disease.
Alabi also said that more clinical research was needed in breast cancer to improve treatment outcomes, reduce cancer burden; its morbidity and mortality among patients.
In clinical research, we need to understand the tumour biology, that is to understand the language the breast is speaking because the breast speaks different language for different people.
There’s what we call heterogeneity in breast cancer, which makes us understand that we have to study each individual to arrive at a prognosis for that individual.
This will guide our treatment for that individual as treatment for woman A is different from woman B, she said.
She, however, added that personalised study and prognosis of patients would lead to better treatment and survival rates, longevity and reduce chances of disease recurrence.
Alabi noted that inadequate funding of research, infrastructure, speciality and collaboration were some of the hindrances that hinder cancer care in the country.
The head of the Medical Centre for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana, Prof. Joel Yarney, said that breast cancer is becoming an increasing public health issue in Africa due to increasing diagnosis.
Prof. Yarney said that an early detection of the health issue was critical to better health outcomes and survival rates.
He stressed on the need for regular self-check and screenings.
Furthermore, he noted that timely access, affordable treatment options and expansion of resources and programmes would address current disparities in breast cancer care.
The Medical Director East & Anglo West Africa, Pfizer, Dr Kodjo Soroh, said the company has partnered with health experts and the media to drive awareness about breast cancer as well as support breast cancer patients.
She added that Pfizer has a programme where it makes cancer medicine available at half the cost to bridge the affordability gap in Nigeria and Ghana.
For Pfizer, breast cancer awareness is more than one month in a year. It is an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to improving lives of people living with breast cancer.
These we do through affordable treatment and removing barriers to equitable care,” he said.
He, further noted that Pfizer had signed an agreement with National Health Insurance Act (NHIA) to enlist an antimicrobial resistance drug free for patients enrolled in the country’s health insurance.
According to Soroh, Pfizer is planning to introduce cancer drugs for patients tat would be given out free through the health insurance before the end of the year to enhance access to quality medicine.