Over 700 Nigerians Die From Oral Cancer Annually

Over 700 Nigerians Die From Oral Cancer Annually

Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, says 746 Nigerians die annually from oral cancer complications in the country.

He said 1,146 cases were diagnosed in the country annually.

Dr Gloria Uzo-Igwe, Head of the Dentistry Division, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), represented Ehanire at a one-day oral cancer workshop in Abuja on Monday.

The training has the theme: “The use of artificial intelligence in the early detection of oral cancer and oral potentially malignant disorders,” and is organized by the Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation.

The minister expressed worries that most people were not aware of the devastating effect of oral cancer in the country.

According to him, oral cancer is very critical because it can easily deface one’s face, you will not be able to talk, you can’t eat, and the mortality rate is very high. It is even higher than the rest of the cancers.

He said that FMOH is intensifying its awareness campaign to enlighten Nigerians about the dangers of cancer.

Ehanire disclosed that plans had been concluded to launch a policy on oral health in the country.

“We have a policy that we are going to launch in November on oral health. Our own is preventive, we go to communities and we raise awareness.

“We are training our community health workers because if you go to communities, there are no oral health workers there.

Everybody wants to go to the town, there are no dentists in the communities. We don’t have dental experts in our rural communities, where oral cancers are more prominent.

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“We go to communities to train health workers so that they can recognise early signs of oral cancer and refer the patients to the hospitals where dentists can get treatment.

“We don’t want it to get to the fourth stage or even third stage. As long as they will be able to recognise it and send the patient to the hospital for prompt action,” he explained.

He explained that the target of the policy should be able to map at least 50 per cent of the population in the rural areas and make sure that there were better professionals at the primary health care centres.

According to him, “We are aiming at what we call a comprehensive centre, at least there must be a dental clinic comprising a dentist, therapist, and hygienist in a comprehensive centre, at least, in the three geopolitical zones of every state.

Meanwhile, Dr Bello Alokun, a facial surgeon, said that artificial intelligence was an advancement in technology.

He said it involved the use of computers, and information obtained from a patient could be used to predict with more than 90 per cent accuracy, the fact that somebody could develop cancer in another 10 years.

Alokun said it was easier for practitioners to keep a better eye on such people, thereby picking oral cancer in its infancy when it is just developing.

He said that early detection meant that cancer could be cured in a particular victim.

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“Artificial intelligence is actually in its rudimentary stage in Nigeria. Its use is being explored in different aspects of medicine and other aspects of science. Nigeria is close to zero level.

“We are collaborating to promote the links that can predict when one can develop oral cancer and to spread information among Nigerians about the use of artificial intelligence and oral cancer generally because early detection is the key,” he said.

In her presentation, the Prof Bukola Adeyemi of the University College Ibadan, said that oral cancer was not too prevalent in the country.

Adeyemi said that its impact was devastating.

She said that if over 1,000 cases of oral cancer were diagnosed every year and over 700 of that number died, “that means that over 50 per cent of people that are diagnosed die of oral cancer every year in the country.

“That is enormous because these are people that are very important to some people”.

She called for regular dental checks and encouraged early diagnosis.

This is because if a disease affects a single person in the population, the individual and the close friends are at a loss. We talk about early diagnosis, we talk about avoidance of established risk factors,” she said.

The Dentistry Professor said that the most important risk factors were tobacco and alcohol, noting that they altered the way the human body use to handle reactive oxygen species.

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“Individuals that avoid these things give themselves a reduced risk of having oral cancer. I am not saying that it is only people exposed to these factors that are only ones having oral cancer, some people have some genetic anomaly within them and have aberrations.

“What we advise people is that they should avoid exposure to these agents.

“These days, some young people don’t smoke again, they use what they call e-smoking; they also use other gadgets called Shisha and the rest, are still dangerous.

“We try to advise people to avoid perverse ways of sexual behaviour such as MouthAction, avoidance of agents that have been associated with carcinogenesis,” she said.

She said another very important thing in society was the excessive use of foods that were prepared over naked flames, noting that they were dangerous, especially for individuals that were constantly being exposed to them.

They include suya, roasted fish, and all those roasted things that are done over a naked fire. They contain what we call established carcinogenesis.

“So, we are not saying that we should not eat them, but things should be done in moderation. Moderation should be established in most of the things that we do.

“Another risk factor for oral cancer is continuous infection. We advise people to visit a dentist at least twice a year and when you can’t make it twice, at least visit your dentist once a year,” she said.

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