Cancer patients in Nigeria have little hope of survival – Oncologists

  • Only 2 radiotherapy machines available
  • ‘After all the pain and money spent, I still lost my boy’

Medical experts in Nigeria have raised the alarm that cancer patients in Nigeria have little or no hope of survival due to the lack of medical facilities to treat the dreaded disease.

Uba Group

The experts, under the auspices of the National Cancer Prevention Programme, said no fewer than 80,000 Nigerians die of the over 200 forms of cancer annually. According to them, half of breast cancer patients die owing to the fact that only two cancer centres are functioning out of the eight centres in the country.

The Head, Department of Radiation Biology, Radiotherapy, Radiodiagnosis and Radiography of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Aderemi Ajekigbe, lamented that, in the whole country, there were only three units of cobalt machines, a radiotherapy device meant to treat cancer patients.

He added that only five linear accelerators, a new model of the cobalt machines, could be found in three out of the country’s eight federal hospitals, noting that, at the moment, only two were working across the eight centres that had one machine each. “I think only the Zaria radiotherapy machine is working, while I am not so certain that the one in Sokoto is still functioning,” he declared.

The oncologist noted that the first and only radiotherapy machine ever bought for LUTH by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 stopped functioning due to the supply of fake diesel for the generator.

“That fake diesel destroyed both the generator and the radiotherapy machine,” he disclosed. Besides, he noted that the single machine in each centre could only treat 40 patients daily out of the many millions waiting for treatment.


According to Ajekigbe, effective treatment of the cancer disease requires a lot of money, depending on the country the patient is referred to abroad. With the current high exchange rate, the treatment may run into several millions of naira, which Cancer patients in Nigeria have little hope of survival – Oncologists literally seals the hope of the poor.

“This is indeed very sad. Government has to move in to subsidise treatment for poor patients in the country,” he advised.


Another oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Lola Salako, justified patients’ preference for cancer treatment outside Nigeria, saying that Nigeria did not have both requisite and sufficient facilities for treatment.

She said, “Patients are being referred elsewhere because it’s no more news that the radiotherapy facilities in many centres are not functioning. And because cancer would not wait, the patients urgently have to be referred to the centres where their machines are working.

All the centres where their facilities are not working would refer patients to the centres, whose facilities are functioning. But when patients get to those centres, they meet hundreds and thousands of patients on the queue waiting for treatment.

“We should remember that the machine can only treat between 40 and 80 patients per day, depending on the type of machine. Some patients choose to wait while some opt to go out of the country. In the country, there are five linear accelerators and three cobalt. Cobalt machines are the older type while the linear machines are a bit modern, yet they lack some functions that will make care better. Each centre has only one radiotherapy facility.”


Ajekigbe observed that there were only 30 oncologists in the whole country to treat patients even as there were over 200 types of cancer in Nigeria. He said, “Cancer is a disease that actually eats up the patient. It is about the worst disease anybody can have as it eventually kills even as it may take the patient through harrowing situations. It usually starts from a part of the body and spreads to the other parts of the body. It does not kill from the primary site unless the primary site is a vital organ of the body, like the brain, the heart, the liver and so on.

“The only parts that cannot be

For the concluding part of this story and others, grab your copy of The Point from your nearest vendor