By Chukwuma Muanya
11 July, 2019.
*89% of breast cancer patients in Nigeria pay out-of-pocket for treatments
*Roche study identifies barriers to tumour treatment in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya.
Recent studies have provided explanations on why omega-3 fatty acids in oily fishes, green tea, garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric and vitamin D are best anti-cancer supplements.
The studies published by Medical News Today indicate that certain dietary supplements may help reduce a person’s risk of developing cancer or support the body during cancer treatment, but no supplement can replace standard cancer therapies.
Anyone considering taking vitamins and supplements during cancer treatment should seek advice from their doctor first, particularly as some can interact with other medications or cause side effects.
Garlic and onion
Research suggests that garlic and onion may help lower the risk of certain cancers.
According to a 2015 review, eating more of these plants may help lower the risk of certain cancers, particularly in the digestive tract. However, the effect is difficult for researchers to quantify, and it is not clear how much of these vegetables a person needs to eat.
A 2018 study found that garlic extract blocks the growth of some types of cancer cell in test tube experiments and mice models.
However, the researchers also noted that some studies suggest that garlic extract may increase the activity of some chemotherapy drugs. As such, anyone undergoing cancer treatment should talk to their doctor before using garlic extract.
Ginger is a traditional remedy for digestive issues and may also help to relieve the side effects of nausea and vomiting that chemotherapy and radiation therapy can often cause.
Making tea from boiled ginger root or eating natural candied ginger throughout the day may help relieve these side effects. People can also buy a variety of ginger tea online.
Meanwhile, a newly released first-of-its-kind study has provided insights into the barriers to care breast cancer patients face in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
According to the study, most patients studied in Nigeria (87 to 93 percent) paid for their diagnostic tests entirely out-of-pocket (OOP) and the findings were similar in Ghana.
The study, presented by Roche pharmaceuticals at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting held in Chicago, IL, United States, found that similar to diagnostic testing, the proportion of patients paying OOP only for treatments were high, ranging from 72 – 89 percent in Nigeria, 45 – 79 percent in Ghana, and eight – 20 percent in Kenya.
The study, titled, “Access to care and financial burden for patients with breast cancer in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria” found that patients are responsible for a significant share – if not all – of diagnostic tests and treatment costs and this limits patient ability to complete an appropriate course of treatment.
In a retrospective chart review, records of patients with breast cancer treated at one government–operated and one privately operated hospital in each country (six tertiary centers) in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya were included in the study.
The cancer centres include National Hospital Abuja and Lakeshore Cancer Center in Nigeria; Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and Sweden Ghana Medical Centre in Ghana and Kenyatta National Hospital and Aga Khan University Hospital in Kenya.
In total, health records from 862 breast cancer patients were reviewed; 299 patient records from Ghana, 314 from Kenya and 249 from Nigeria.
The study assessed delays to patient care, including the delays to initiating standard of care testing (mammography, MRI, ER, HER2, chest x-ray) and to receiving these test results, as well as delays to initiation of standard of care treatment (neoadjuvant chemotherapy, breast surgery, mastectomy, biologic treatment).
According to the study, among those patients receiving HER2 targeted therapy, the average number of cycles was five for patients paying OOP only versus 14 for patients with some level of insurance coverage.
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The researchers said that identifying the barriers present in a patient’s journey to receiving care is a critical first step to understanding what changes need to be made to increase access and affordability of cancer care.
They said the findings of this study demonstrate the urgent need for policies that improve standard of care treatment and increase insurance coverage to improve clinical outcomes and protect breast cancer patients from financial hardship.
The researchers demonstrated how a patient’s chance of survival can be impacted by delays in diagnosis and treatment, limitations in access to appropriate and quality cancer care, and financial burdens associated with receiving care.
To better understand the challenges to addressing the full spectrum of breast cancer patient care in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and to help identify what solutions are needed throughout the patient journey, the study evaluated real world data on medical resource use, time taken to access recommended interventions and impact of payment options for individual patients.
Co-author of the study and consultant clinical/radiation oncologist, National Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Razaq Oyesegun, said: “This study is a critical first step to understanding the magnitude of the barriers that Nigerian breast cancer patients face in their fight against this disease, both to improve access to quality cancer treatment and ensure that our patients do not face financial catastrophe while fighting this disease.
“In line with global momentum toward Universal Healthcare, there is a need for policies that improve standard of care treatment and increase insurance coverage to ultimately improve outcomes and protect breast cancer patients from financial hardship.”
Country Manager, Nigeria at Roche, Dr. Hameed Oladipupo, said: “Roche is proud to support this study which provides real world data on the breast cancer patient journey in Nigeria, and importantly, provides direction on what specific changes need to be made to improve outcomes for these patients. One way that this can be accomplished is through stronger private-private and public-private partnerships geared towards improving access to breast cancer care as no single player can tackle the barriers alone.
“When we work together we can increase access and affordability of cancer care – and ultimately, improve outcomes for women in Nigeria facing breast cancer.”
Omega-3 fatty acids
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids might lower a person’s risk of developing some types of cancer.
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are naturally present in a variety of foods, including: fish, including salmon, mackerel, and tuna; plants oils, such as those from flaxseed, soybean, and canola; and nuts and seeds.
Some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent some types of cancer.
For example, a 2015 review found some evidence that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s may lower a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.
However, a 2019 clinical trial investigated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in 25,871 people.
The researchers found that participants who took omega-3 supplements did not have an overall reduced risk of cancer compared to those who took a placebo. There was also no association between taking omega-3 supplements and a lower risk of breast, colorectal, or prostate cancers.
Dietary supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids are widely available in health stores and pharmacies in a variety of different forms, including: cod liver oil; fish oil; krill oil; and algal oil, which comes from algae and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Green tea is a popular drink that is rich in compounds called polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Supplements containing extracts from green tea and its main active component, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), may help in the fight against cancer.
According to a 2018 review, EGCG and green tea extracts may help prevent or delay cancer onset, cancer recurrence, and secondary growths from cancer.
However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) state that studies of green tea and cancer in humans have so far produced inconsistent results.