A former presidential candidate and academician, Prof Pat Utomi has urged Nigerian men to see prostate health as an obligation by carrying out annual medical checkups of their body including prostate cancer
Utomi gave the advice on Wednesday at the 2023 Men on Blue Prostate Cancer webinar while narrating his own battle with prostate cancer.
The Professor of political economy lamented that prostate cancer is taking away Nigerian men in their prime age at a seminar jointly organised by Project PINK BLUE (PPB), Inclusive Cancer Care Research Equity for Black Men Consortium, and JNCI International, both NGOs.
The webinar which had leading cancer scientists, health system experts, and stakeholders was organised to commemorate International Men’s Day.
Narrating his own battle with prostate cancer, Utomi said “At the onset of COVID-19, around 2020, my Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) was found to be elevated and I was asked to see a urologist and later had a direct rectal examination.
“The results now showed positive for prostate cancer”.
“A disease is a disease, what is the difference between malaria and cancer? I had 45 sessions of radiotherapy, hormone treatment, and other medications.
“Today, my PSA has dropped to a normal level. My hormone treatment will go on till next year,” he stressed.
Utomi said that there is a lot of ignorance about prostate cancer, wondering why enough has not been done to get men aware.
According to him, there are lots of men of his age who are having problems with their prostate but they are hiding it and unfortunately, they are dying.
The Professor noted that treating cancer was not affordable in Nigeria, adding that there was a need for public-private sector collaboration and investment.
He, however, said that so many bottlenecks exist in setting up a cancer centre in Nigeria and that the Nigeria Nuclear Radiation Authority charges for a license to import equipment, fees to register the premises, and more fees to commission the equipment.
He disclosed that N17.5 million was required to set up one cancer machine, in addition to customs duties, and many others, adding that these charges had now been passed on to the cancer patients.
Utomi, however, said that there was a need for rethinking cancer control and making treatment accessible to many Nigerians.
Mr Runcie Chidebe, the Executive Director of PPB and the convener of the webinar said “Every day in Nigeria, we hear and see breast cancer survivors, but prostate cancer survivors are rarely seen or heard of.
According to him, based on the above fact, many Nigerians still assume that cancer is a ‘woman’s thing’ and that the challenges of men battling prostate cancer are not always discussed and rarely considered for intervention.
He said that the NGO Men on Blue initiative started in 2017 as a platform to create awareness of prostate cancer among Nigerian men and to advocate better policies for men.
Clare Omatseye, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), JNCI International and Vice President of the African Healthcare Federation noted that prostate cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in Nigerian men.
“In 2020, 15,306 Nigerian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 8,517 deaths were recorded.
“The risk factors of prostate cancer are first, being a man, second, age, and third being black. Genetically, there is something about Black people that increases the prostate cancer risk and makes it more aggressive in black men,” he said.
Mr Solomon Rotimi, professor of Biochemistry at Covenant University, also identified other risk factors of prostate as smoking, obesity, stress and having multiple sexual partners.