What is the most prevalent cancer in Nigeria?
This question has remained largely unanswered in our country and continent as a whole. It is pertinent we answer this question if we are serious about reducing the cancer burden in our country.
What is cancer? To the uninformed and uninitiated - it is the same disease arising from different parts of the body, to the informed and uninitiated - it is a disease characterized by the aberrant growth of cells resident in different organs that outlives the initiating stimuli, while to the informed and initiated - cancers are a diverse group of diseases sharing a common phenotype of uncontrolled growth. Research has shown that there exists marked heterogeneity amongst: the same type cancer arising from different populations of people, and in the same cancer arising in a single individual. Simply put, breast cancers seen in Indian women may differ from those seen in Nigerian ladies. Furthermore there may exist different cancers types in a single cancer in a single individual. This complex observation means that In the future cancers will be classified and defined based on its molecular profiles rather than anatomy. Treatment will thus be offered based on these molecular changes (the so-called “individualization of cancer therapy” or “personalized therapy” which has been recently publicized). The recent sequencing of the entire human genome means that this is achievable. The cost and or skills required for this process remains unknown but it will definitely be expensive and out of reach of developing countries like Nigeria.