Nigeria's cancer advocate on CNN


CNN has a new programme; AFRICAN VOICES that highlights the activities of amazing people from our continent. Many great interviews every Saturday with our heroes...the real heroes that we as Africans hear very little about; Trevor Ncube a Zimbabwean is one of southern Africa’s most powerful publishers, Leslie Lumeh; the 39-year-old Liberian artist  exiled during the country’s civil war, but who returned after the conflict to open a gallery, and the Moroccan Malika Zarra that has taken her mezzo-soprano voice across the world.

I was intrigued when I recieved the email advertising this week’s programme….

Nigerian princess Nikky Onyeri has takes the issues of health in Africa After being wrongly diagnosed with breast cancer, she founded the Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation to improve detection and treatment.

…and what a programme it was….watch it here on CNN

We were treated to an engaging interview to an “ordinary” Nigerian, telling the story of how she found her calling. She was misdiagnosed with breast cancer and was thrown into the complex world of understanding cancer.

Breast cancer is one of those few cancers for which a significant proportion can be prevented. But this prevention can only happen with a complex of factors relating to the individuals’ awareness and proactivity in self examining, the availability of screening programmes (as opposed to screening machines) and the availability of the expert health care provision to provide care including surgery.

…it was even more intruiging to listen to her work being described as;

“Profoundly effective”

“Her tenacity is legendary”

….but most intriguing was the story of how she brought together all African First Ladies to a meeting in Cape Town South Africa to help put breast cancer on the agenda….There were clips of an articulate Mrs Museveni saying….“You cannot say “NO” to her” 

 ….are you thinking what I am thinking?  If CNN could find this lone voice from our country to give a voice to this problem., why has our first Lady and her minders not worked with her in their planning of their  £40M Cancer Centre in Abuja

Breast cancer, like other cancers are complex health challenges. Rather than another multi million dollar centre, we really need to the thinking that will help provide a system…..from prevention to early detection by screening to referral systems to surgical services to radio and chemotherapy to palliative care….across primary, secondary and tertiary care, with equitable access to women from Maiduguri to Yenogoa.

NOT POSSIBLE? – that is the same thing NITEL told us 10 years ago! Remember?

This is Princess Onyeri’s message..…hopefully someone will listen.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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