Original Research

The ‘evil arrow’ myths and misconceptions of cancer at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria

Kehinde O. Ololade, Adewumi Alabi, Babatunde Fadipe, Bolanle Adegboyega
South African Journal of Oncology | Vol 3 | a49 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajo.v3i0.49 | © 2019 Kehinde O. Ololade | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 July 2018 | Published: 23 January 2019

About the author(s)

Kehinde O. Ololade, Department of Radiation Biology, Radiotherapy, Radiodiagnosis and Radiography, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria
Adewumi Alabi, Department of Radiotherapy, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria
Babatunde Fadipe, Department of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria
Bolanle Adegboyega, Department of Radiotherapy, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria


Background: Myths and misconceptions have significant impact on the presentation and management of cancers globally. One such example includes ‘evil arrow’ myths. There is limited knowledge regarding the role of misconceptions in late presentation for management in developing countries. The percentage increase in cancers in many African countries is higher than that in developed countries. Evil arrow is the seeming attack of the enemy in a supernatural version as a result of wizardry.

Aim: To evaluate the relationship of common myths and misconceptions among cancer patients, their treatment and delay of presentation to the hospital.

Setting: The study was undertaken in a tertiary health facility in a cosmopolitan tropical state.

Method: This is a randomised observational survey study carried out among patients and their relatives referred to the Radiotherapy Clinic of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital for treatment (a lower-income mixed metropolitan setting). A self-administered questionnaire was used. Patient consent was obtained. Data were analysed with Epi Info 2002 software and the results were presented using frequency tables and charts.

Results: About 57 were patients (67%) and 28 were patients’ relatives (33%). The age distribution of participants showed 31–40 years (31.8%; 27) as the highest number, while 11–20 years (1.2%; 1) was the lowest number. A slight female preponderance of 58.8% (50) was observed. High incidence of those with the opinion that cause of cancer is unknown represented 63% (54). Over 65% of patients presented with advanced disease. The reasons for late presentation to the hospital included lack of funds in 23.5% of patients (20).

Conclusion: Lack of funds, myths and misconception are main reasons why patients presented late to hospital. There is a need to emphasise debunking innumerable myths and misconceptions associated with cancer.


cancer; evil arrow; patients; myths


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Crossref Citations

1. The roles of chaplains in dispelling cancer myths in Nigeria: A narrative review
Afeez A. Salami, Kehinde K. Kanmodi, Jimoh Amzat
Health Science Reports  vol: 6  issue: 8  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1002/hsr2.1502