Don’t Wait For Symptoms Before Taking Medical Tests —Expert
By Newton-Ray Ukwuoma – Lagos
Hepatitis B and C, ovarian cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, Human Papilloma Virus, breast cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, down syndrome, Patau syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and sickle cell anaemia are among the molecular and genetic diseases described as death sentences in Nigeria which experts are saying could be prevented if people visit test laboratories frequently instead of waiting for symptomatic pieces of evidence of these ailments.
Over 20 million Nigerians today suffer needlessly from Hepatitis B, 10 million Nigerians are estimated to have Hepatitis C, while Nigeria contributes two per cent to the global burden of Hepatitis, a scientific journal revealed.
Doctors say that most of the current population of hepatitis cases in Nigeria will graduate to either liver sclerosis, liver cancer or any of the liver diseases as hepatitis is the leading cause of liver disease.
Unfortunately, both variants of Hepatitis do not manifest any signs or symptoms until after 20 years of carrying the disease.
“So, people might actually be infected with Hepatitis but they might not know until 20 years down the line when they develop liver sclerosis or liver cancer or liver disease,” Dr Abasi Ene-Obong, the co-founder of Stack Diagnosis, said during the flag-off of the first Nigerian molecular diagnostics and online personalised test ordering portal dubbed DiagnoseMe Africa in Lagos.
He explained that while liver transplant is a common medical exercise in most countries of the world, Nigeria lags behind in the practice.
According to him, late diagnosis of hepatitis coupled with the poor medical facility for liver transplant exponentially double the cases of liver failure and death in Nigeria, even though hepatitis remains a preventable disease.
Ene-Obong, who is an expert in cancer biology, genetics and immunotherapy research, about 22 million women in Nigeria have varying types of HPV. Though not in all cases, HPV leads to cervical cancer, which is among the top three deadly cancers in the country.
If women between 20 and 65 years old take a routine test for HPV every three years, Ene-Obong, disclosed that they will completely eliminate chances of contracting the virus and by extension coming down with cervical cancer.
But “in Nigeria, one of the reasons we have issues of people dying of cancer is simply because we do not detect these diseases early; and because we cannot detect the diseases early we cannot take the steps to do something about them. This is why our people die of so many preventable diseases,” he said.
Speaking about international practices in precision medicine, Dr Nchiewe Ani, a medical advisor disclosed that the “hindsight of the genetic makeup of a patient can help to eliminate 50/50 errors in patient management, ultimately ensures high success rate in cases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, autoimmune and hormonal diseases. It also helps to eliminate issues of drug resistance, especially with oncology drugs.
“It is as simple as analysing your saliva and we can tell you what cancer your gene carries or does not carry.”
According to Ene-Obong, the over 300 specialist tests including hereditary cancers, non-invasive prenatal test, paternity, gene mutation detection, hepatitis B and C viral load, water, will not only help doctors and patients nip preventable diseases in the bud, but also arrest the structural challenges bedeviling the health sector in Nigeria.