General News Mon, 31 Mar 2008

Chronicle: Mills Has Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

... his left eye is now dropping

...a clear symptom of the dreadful disease

A doctor contracted by The Chronicle to diagnose Professor John Atta Mills has tearfully pleaded with Ghanaians to pray for the gentleman because he is undergoing extensive radiotherapy for the dreaded ‘nasopharnygeal carcinoma’. The diagnosis for this illness is very unpleasant. The shattering peace of news has generated heated debate within The Chronicle newsroom necessitating a call to our veteran journalist who owns this title to discuss how The Chronicle should handle the news.

His take is that the Ghanaian electorate have the right to know what the health status of their potential President is, especially since the public interest consideration in a democratic system outweigh the need to keep such information under wraps. It overrides what his personal interest is. ‘He is a lawyer, he will know and appreciate this. Its how you present it, by all means go ahead but present it in a sympathetic caring way,’ counselled Kofi Coomson. Not unexpectedly, the director of Communications of candidate Mills dismissed this reporter’s enquiry about Mills, waving off any suggestion that Professor Mills is sick. He insisted that he is ‘in the best of health.

But Mr Anyidoho’s remarks is a far cry from the Professor’s own admission that ‘Yes, Atta Mills is suffering from the nose, Yes, Atta Mills is receiving medical attention for his eyes.’ Additionally, the NDC flagbearer has gone on record to say that he has gone to China and South Africa to seek treatment for his illnesss, an indication of the extent he has travelled to keep the nature of his illness from public gawking.

The caution that The Chronicle doctor is raising is to keep the usually teetotal celibate Mills from the punishing schedule of a nationwide campaign which could exacerbate his medical condition, especially in July, when the full panoply of the NPP swings into action, with all 16 presidential candidates’ metal brigade combining to take the entire country in one bomb fire of a campaign.

‘His left eye is dropping now, symptomatic of the effect of the radio therapy on the rather aggressive cells that are attacking the left eye lobe,’ suggested the doctor. It is now official that the health condition of the Presidential Candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Professor John Evans Atta Mills keeps growing from bad to worse. Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma, is a type of cancer originating in the nasopharynx, the uppermost region of the pharynx or "throat", where the nasal passages and auditory tubes join the remainder of the upper respiratory tract. On his recent tour of the Eastern Region, it emerged that Mills was so far gone that he could not clearly identify Hon. Nyaunu, though he was close to him until Nyaunu mentioned his name to him.

Mills’ illness differs significantly from other cancers of the head and neck in its occurrence, causes, clinical behavior, and treatment. The worsening condition of his health, coupled with the problem of finding resources to run the NDC campaign machine is why Mills has been frequently visiting his 40 year old nephew, Kojo Mills, who happens to be the Chief Executive of the multi-billion-rand Shanduka Group, a gargantuan money black empowerment vehicle. This goes to confirm the fear of the NDC MP for Lower Manya Krobo, Micheal Teye Nyaunu, who had earlier raised concerns about his flagbearer’s health. There was near exchange of blows among some NDC MPs in Parliament when the MP suggested that the party’s flagbearer be removed on account of his alleged poor health.

According to Hon Nyaunu, The NDC presidential candidate needed no medical officer to pronounce that he was terribly sick; pointing out that Prof Mills could not withstand the rigours of the campaign. “Whether we like it or not, we are going into the race like wounded tigers, and we cannot allow a sheep to lead lions into such a battle. I’m afraid for my party,” he warned. The revelation incurred the wrath of other NDC parliamentarians around, including Enoch Tei Mensah (Ningo/Prampram), Moses Asaga (Nabdam) and Abukari Sumani (Tamale North), who virtually traded insults with Nyaunu for daring to speak his mind. Nyaunu’s bombshell immediately sparked off controversy in the party, with the leadership calling for a crisis meeting to douse the raging inferno which if not well managed, could further polarize the party.

But for the intervention of Richard Quarshigah, an ardent NDC member, the verbal scuffle that ensued could have degenerated into a brawl. A statement issued after a meeting held later in the evening condemned the MP for his comments. Signed by General Secretary of the party, Johnson Asiedu-Nketiah, the statement said “whilst the party respects Hon Teye Nyaunu’s right to express his view, the party finds the statement uninformed, distasteful and unethical.”

Sources in the NDC have hinted the paper that Mills’ situation has affected his sight to an extent that he struggles to see. The disease produces few symptoms early in its course, with the result that most cases are quite advanced when detected. Once the tumor has expanded from its site of origin in the lateral wall of the nasopharynx, it may obstruct the nasal passages and cause nasal discharge or nosebleed. Internet searches for the history and diagnostics of the illness presents still more harrowing findings. Gradually, according to reports, it could lead to an obstruction of the auditory tubes which may cause chronic ear infections, and patients may experience referred pain to the ear.

Research has indicated that numerous studies have linked common subtypes of the illness to infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which has also been implicated in the development of other cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease, Burkitt’s lymphoma, and HIV-associated lymphomas. Because nasopharyngeal cancer occurs in an anatomical site which is poorly accessible to surgeons and is often advanced at presentation, the most effective means of treatment is generally radiation therapy, either with or without concurrent chemotherapy, which is exactly why Mills frequents Southern Africa where nephew. Kojo and his American wife pick up all the bills.

However, the five-year survival rate of non-keratinizing and undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinomas, with appropriate treatment, is about 65% overall. Cure is highly possible, even when disease has spread to the regional lymph nodes. The prognosis of keratinizing the disease is significantly worse, due to its greater resistance to radiation. There was no physical sign of deterioration in the appearance of Mills at Fadama when he led a throng of NDC supporters to the Fadama residence of the National Chief Imam. His drooling eyes that were the subject of concern by the doctor was not in evidence, and the prognosis was that, the treatment may be working.

Source: Chronicle