In recent times, reported cases of cancer in Nigeria have seen a significant rise. While the root causes of this alarming trend remain elusive, there is hope in the effectiveness of radiotherapy as a means to manage and, in some cases, even cure the disease. However, the accessibility and high costs associated with this treatment remain crucial issues in the Nigerian medical sector.
Cost of Radiotherapy in Nigeria
The overall expense of radiotherapy in Nigeria hinges on several key factors, including the type of cancer, the number of doses required, the hospital’s location, the specific type of radiation therapy employed, and other related variables. Generally, radiotherapy can be quite expensive due to the involvement of complex machinery and the expertise of multiple medical practitioners across various fields.
On average, a full session of radiotherapy can range between N300,000 to N1 million. The cost is influenced by factors such as the type of radiation therapy, the type of cancer being treated, the required dosage, and any additional prescribed medications during the process.
Radiotherapy, also known as Radiation therapy, entails the use of invisible high-energy rays or subatomic particles to target and destroy cancerous cells, impeding their growth and division. This specialized treatment is administered by a radiation oncologist, a medical professional well-versed in radiation therapy.
There are two primary categories of radiotherapy: External and Internal. External radiation therapy is typically conducted on an outpatient basis in a specialized clinic over a span of several weeks. During treatment, patients are not radioactive and remain non-radioactive afterward.
In contrast, internal radiation therapy necessitates the patient to stay in the hospital for a few days. The implant may be temporary or permanent, with more restrictions in place. For instance, due to the level of radiation emitted, visitors may not be allowed. It’s important to note that once the implant is completely removed, the patient is no longer radioactive.
Side Effects of Radiotherapy
While radiotherapy is commendably effective in treating many types of cancer, like most treatments, it comes with potential side effects. These effects vary based on factors such as the type and location of the cancer, the dosage of radiation therapy, and the patient’s overall health.
Recent advancements in radiation therapy have improved accuracy, reducing side effects and minimizing disruption to healthy tissues. Unlike chemotherapy, hair loss is not a common side effect, although radiation therapy to the scalp may lead to hair loss.
Common side effects may include:
- Skin Problems: Itching, dryness, and peeling of the skin in the treated area, which typically subside within a few weeks after treatment cessation.
- Tiredness: Patients may experience fatigue, the level of which depends on the treatment plan. Combining chemotherapy with radiation therapy may lead to increased fatigue.
- Long-term Side Effects: While most side effects are short-lived, a few may persist or evolve into other health issues. In rare cases, they may even lead to the development of another cancer.
- Radiation Recall: This severe side effect manifests as a rash resembling a severe sunburn, occurring in the area where radiation is concentrated. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, wet sores, and peeling.
Radiation recall is a rare occurrence, usually associated with intense chemo or radiotherapy, and its severity depends on the type of cancer, radiation intensity, and therapy type used.