Omolola Salako - Demystifying cancer care in Africa

Automatic Summary

Demystifying Cancer Care in Nigeria

Hello, I am Ome Lola Salako, an oncology specialist from Lagos, Nigeria. My journey into cancer research and patient support started about 18 years ago, following the loss of my younger sister to kidney cancer. My mission is to improve cancer care in Nigeria and other low-to-middle income countries. In this article, I aim to shed light on the current state of cancer care in Nigeria, its challenges, and what we can do to improve it.

The Current State of Cancer Care in Nigeria

Each week, I see between 50 to 100 cancer patients in Nigeria, and notably, 80% of them present late with advanced disease. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding and awareness about cancer, and the late diagnoses add to the public health crisis in a country with a population strength of 200 million people.

Let's consider these numbers:

  • Approximately 120,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year.
  • 80% of those newly diagnosed present at an advanced stage.
  • Only 100 clinical oncologists, including myself, are available to treat these patients, leading to a significant shortage of specialists.
  • In stark comparison, for every one clinical oncologist in Nigeria treating 1250 cancer patients, one clinical oncologist in America treats only 137 cancer patients.

Thus, it is evident that there is an urgent need to address the shortcomings within the healthcare sector in Nigeria, particularly in cancer care.

The Cancer Mortality Rate in Nigeria

Of the 120,000 cancer patients diagnosed last year, 63% will die. This alarming rate is influenced heavily by the late presentation of patients, the prohibitive cost of cancer care, and a lack of access to a multidisciplinary approach to treatment in the country.

Improving Early Diagnosis and Treatment

At Oncopadi, we constantly question and strategize to improve early diagnosis and efficient treatment of cancer. We believe that demystifying cancer care involves removing the fear associated with the dreaded disease and empowering patients with the right information and connections to specialists.

Introducing the Oncopadi App

In order to enhance access to oncologists online, facilitate cancer screening, aid diagnosis, and provide a supportive community for caregivers and patients, the Onco Pari team developed a mobile application - an award-winning Cancer App aimed at empowering a new model of medicine.

Success of the Oncopadi App

In just one year, a thousand cancer patients have engaged with the Oncopadi application. This has resulted in a better understanding of how patients are using the app, their engagements, what they like and dislike, and generally aids a more data-driven approach to improve its features and functionalities.

Through the app, we have developed a cancer coaching program, created a community where over 700 cancer patients are engaged in daily conversations on how to beat cancer, and established critical partnerships with the tech industry to enhance the app's reach and capacity.

Motivation and Inspiration

At Oncopadi, our commitment to demystifying cancer care comes from a place of empathy and a passion for serving our patients. Our team is made up of bold and enthusiastic women who continually innovate, ask questions, and challenge the status quo. Our entire team, from the CEO to the newest recruit, buys into our patient-centric culture.

Building a Community

At Oncopadi, we acknowledge that it takes a community to fight cancer effectively. As such, we are building bridges not only with patients but also with caregivers, cancer specialists, pharmaceutical industries, and diagnostic tech organizations. We believe in changing the cancer story in Nigeria, and this is achieved through a collective effort.

In conclusion, we can only hope that our efforts at Oncopadi will inspire similar initiatives across other low-to-middle income countries, as we all strive for universal access to quality healthcare. Thank you for taking the time to read.

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone. My name is Ome Lola Salako. I'm from Lagos, Nigeria. And today I'll talk to you about demystifying cancer care in Nigeria and other low middle income countries.And so my journey into the cancer space started about 18 years ago when my, my little younger sister here at the time, she was 18 years old. Um she passed away from um advanced kidney cancer at the time I was a medical student and that just triggered my interest in supporting cancer patients. Uh I completed my education at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and then went on to specialize in oncology in Lagos University General Hospital. Over the 15 years, I have set up several start ups that are impacting cancer patients. There's the Onco party which is a tech platform, Shebeli an NGO X Labs, which is a digital health hub for, you know, myself. And recently I set up a private clinic. Uh Well, I've been recognized by several organizations, but the one that excites me the most is being recognized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology as one of the brightest minds in cancer research. It's a humbling experience because all of this.

I have gained knowledge, um impact all started from a place of pain which is losing my sister um 18 years ago to cancer.

And so as I treat

cancer patients in Nigeria,

every week, I see between 50 to 100 cancer patients. And here's the challenge,

80% of them present lead a woman like Kemi, she's 49 years old. She's diagnosed

with breast cancer, but typically she doesn't

know what to do. She's diagnosed. A lot of women are diagnosed at an early

age in Nigeria and they can't believe it. And they are thrown into a world of confusion. But here's what I would like to point out. Camy said,

if only I knew the right cancer specialists,

right from the beginning, I would have saved time my money

and my life. Now, 80% of cancer patients

present late with advanced disease in Nigeria and we have a public health

and this is because Nigeria is such country. We have a population strength of 200 million. Amazing people of the 200 million. Yeah, about 100

and 20,000 new cancer cases are

diagnosed. Remember

about 80% of these cases present very late with advanced disease. But here's the startling thing. There are only a

100 clinical oncologists. So I am a clinical oncologist. I'm one of the 100

in the country, but we'll treat the cancer patients. So we have a lot of problem and all of these are contributing to the cancer crisis. So take a look at Nigeria for every

one clinical oncologist

is expected to treat 1250 cancer patients. Compare that to America

where one

clinical oncologist treats 130

seven cancer patients.

And in countries like Chad um Central Africa Republic, there are no clinical oncologists. So we do have a crisis in our hands and just

to take us off the startling statistics, I don't know if you've heard this, that Twitter was banned in Nigeria. We're all very, very upset about it and we believe it will be resolved soon. And you can see on the front

line that

the people in Nigeria, about 100 million of us, the youths are really outreached with our precedent for banning


So the cancer mortality in Nigeria, this means of the 100

20,000 cancer patients diagnosed last year,

63% of them will die. This is startling. It's unacceptable and

we can do something about it and that's what we are doing

in our own party. Why do patients present late? Why do 80% of Nigerian cancer patients present late have some reasons, poverty, poor insight into the disease, suboptimal care. When the patient eventually gets to the

hospital, there are just no clinical oncologist to give

a multidisciplinary

approach to care.


cost of care is prohibitively expensive. A lot of cancer patients can't afford care. And so at

Uncle Patty we keep asking ourselves questions, why is the cancer mortality

so high? How can we help patients present

early? How can we remove fear from the cancer equation?

Because a lot of people here,

oh, you've been diagnosed with cancer and the

next thing and they are out of the hospital, we never see them again. What tool can we put in the hands of cancer patients that will support them? And you know, it reminds me of the quote by Albert and Einstein that

the important thing is never to stop questioning. As we asked all of these questions, my team and I at Uncle

Paddy developed an app designed an app, thought of an app that would,


since the patients are at home and they don't

like to come to the hospital because they are scared and they never come

to the hospital. Some of them never come to the hospital because they just don't want to be seen in the hospital. Can we provide the clinical oncologists online so that we can gain their trust

rather than waiting

for the patient

to meet us uh in the clinic?

Can we provide preventive tests, screening tests to patients? No, sorry, not to patients but to the public so that more people

can engage in

cancer screening

and we can detect some cancer cases that are

early. Can we identify patients who need support with diagnosis through

the app and through the health shop. Last year, we conducted more than 800 tests in our partner

labs. Can we for the first time, provide patients caregivers with a community that supports them? So at the end of all the questions, we created some answers and we dumped all

those ideas into a very, very cool


called the on app. It's an award cancer app. It's empowering a new model of medicine and we are excited about it.

So, the Onco Pari app currently serves our B to C clients who are cancer patients and their caregivers.

Later on in the

year, we are going to launch our hospital enterprise model where we are creating collaborations

and connections


cancer specialists. I forgot to mention that clinical oncologists in Nigeria are 100

and there is an issue with how we are distributed. A lot of us are in the city at the moment,

there are less than five oncologists in the rural areas.

And so we, we asked ourselves, how can we tell or just two remote areas? Excuse me.

Here's another question we have. We, we had two years ago,

how can we switch the mortality rates which is 63% to survive our rate.

And so the Uncle Party team came up with this of,

let us provide answers to the survivorship needs.


understand the patient's

journey, their personas, what

tool they are using on our app. Because as of last year, we had 1000 cancer patients engage the app and for the first time we have data so we can better understand how patients are using the app, how they're dropping off what they like and what they

don't like

from my experience with um our app users, we've developed the cancer coaching program. We have developed a community where more than 700 cancer patients are having daily conversations on how to beat cancer. We are developing our partnership models with the tech industry, Microsoft, the Telcos and they are all coming together to serve the cancer patients. And that's what we stand for our own copa we cannot demystify cancer care if we do not partner with other organizations that have a far wider reach. So the TELCOS are key to


cancer care. Of course, a lot of patients get into the hospital and they walk out without receiving treatment. So we asked Station Onco Padi hubs in the prominent cancer hospitals so that we can support cancer patients on treatment. We can promote adherence and be there for them for welfare reasons, for coaching reasons, for support reasons. So they just don't receive treatment and you know, have side effects and have no one to turn to Onco Padi is usually there for them. And of course, we can't win this fight against cancer if we do not engage the cancer specialist, the surgeons, the clinical oncologists. And for the first time, we're developing a digital tumor board that will serve communities, remote communities and so demystifying cancer care is a benefit to all stakeholders patients oncologists and what we promise our people who use the app and many cancer patients we are introducing the app to is when you use the Ono Party app, you are guaranteed speedy access to it to an oncologist.

You can share your experiences or learn from other cancer survivors. You definitely will save money because we have curated discount, you'll save time. You're not gonna go around seven hospitals, which is typical just because you wanna access cancer care. Ono Padi lands the patient where they need to be. And of course, the patient has better insight, better understanding into their disease and they make better decisions. And I just want to round up with the reason why we are so inspired to demystify cancer care is because the workforce in Uncle Paddy is largely female and we are bold. Yes, we run through our sessions of imposter syndrome, fear and all of that. But we are bold. We, we challenge ourselves. We understand our talents and expertise and we know when to call on each other, when we need each other's strength or when we have to pull each other and convert a weakness to strength. Again, our, our team, we are millennials and generation Z and you know, we're just quite different from the baby boomers. We also have a patient centric culture which we've invite into our daily culture, right from the CEO,

which is me to the

newest recruit. They understand we are here to serve the patient. We are here to support the patient on the toughest battle they will ever have. We also ask questions. We never stop asking questions in our, in the daily conversations in our app community. Through surveys. We are asking questions. How can we do this better? What did you like? What did you not like? We listen, we've got two airs, each person listens and we have a board where we transfer everything we have listened to as a team and we agree on how we are going to change our services or develop our features. So it's a team based approach to support the cancer patient. And of course, because we are women in tech, we continue to create products. We're building bridges amongst stakeholders and patients and we are creating narratives because we want to change the cancer story. And so we serve a large community, uh the

cancer patients, we connect them to resources that makes them survive

their disease. We support the cancer caregivers, we work with cancer specialists, the

pharmaceutical industry, diagnostic

tech and many of that um organizations. And I'd like to

say thank you for listening to me.