As part of efforts to ensure holistic treatment of cancer in Nigeria, the Federal Government is employing multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of patients. Dr Okpako Okpikpi, the National Coordinator, National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), said this in Abuja.
According to Okpikpi, cancer treatment which begins with proper diagnosis needs a wholistic approach as a single cancer patient may already have one or two other illnesses which will require multidisciplinary treatment plan.
To this end, he said, the Ministry of Health had issued a circular approving the setting up of Multidisciplinary Tumour Boards (MDTs) as pre-requisite for a hospital to qualify as a Cancer Treatment Centre.
The circular, which was made available to newsmen was dated Nov. 29, 2021 with Ref: NCCP/DHS/030/1, addressed to all Chief Executive Officers of Federal Tertiary Health Institutions and titled “Setting Up of MDTs in Cancer Treatment Centers”.
Signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr Mahmuda Mamman, it directed the CEOs of the referred institutions to set up MDTs in their various institutions and inform all the healthcare workers of the content of the circular for immediate compliance.
Part of the circular read thus: “MDTs board is a team of caregivers coming together to review cancer patients with the sole aim of improving the quality of care for the patient.
“The review by MDTs must be evidence-based, using approved guidelines for reference purposes.
“The MDT is expected to have a standard operation manual and a meeting format to review all cancer patients before a final decision on the best modality of treatment is taken.
“It could be a hospital-wide tumour board or a disease specific tumour board.”
Okpikpi also spoke about the International Cancer Week (ICW) 2022 in Abuja from Nov. 1 to 4, with the theme: “Bridging the Cancer Care Gap: Improving Diagnosis and Multidisciplinary Management.”
He said that it was aimed at addressing the issue of wrong and late diagnosis of cancer.
“We have heard about cases of wrong diagnosis but if you get diagnosis right, of course you are on the right path.
“Once you mis-diagnose, it’s like every other thing is a waste, resources, expertise, everything, nothing will work out.
“So, here we are talking about improving diagnosis and this is one of the areas that we found out that there are lots of gaps because many of our hospitals are not really as equipped as they should be for us to have the right diagnosis.
“That is also why we are emphasising it in this ICW and talking about multidisciplinary management.”
He also said that it would buttress the intent of the circular to give cancer patients a better treatment approach.
About other interventions, the coordinator said that the Federal Government has six designated centres of excellence for oncology.
He said that at these centres, one in each geo-political zone, all kinds of cancers could be managed there as they had been equipped with modern equipment.
He added that “beyond that, government has also come up with what we call Cancer Access Partnership Programme. It is a chemotherapy assess programme which started in 2019.
“This programme ensures that cancer medicines are made available to all patients at 50 per cent less the current price in the market so that medicines are made cheaper for them.”
He also said that the Cancer Health Fund, also an initiative of the Federal Government, makes money available for indigent patients who cannot afford cost of treatment.
According to him, the fund is limited to patients with either breast, cervix or prostate cancer.