Early detection of cancer still saves lives – First Lady

First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, Madam Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has reiterated that early detection of cancer diseases is a major pre-requisite for saving lives in Ghana and across the African continent.

She said most people visit the hospital only when the disease is in its advanced stage where chances of survival are minimal.

“We do know that cancer when detected early with appropriated access to treatment, has a better success rate and outcome.  In fact, some patients may be cured depending on the type of cancer and intervention given. It is important that people get detected early to improve chances for desired outcomes. In going forward therefore, three things are key for me and I wish to share them with you for your consideration”, she said.

Chairing the cancer conference organized by the Association of Representatives of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industries (AREPI) to confront the holistic comprehensive financing of cancer care in Ghana, the First Lady appealed to stakeholders, private health insurance and the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to work together to fund the required diagnostics and treatment to the disease.

Held under the theme: “Transforming Cancer Care In Ghana; Providing and Sustaining World Class Standard Care to Our People”, the conference was also aimed at encouraging stakeholders and cancer patients play their individual roles in the fight against cancer.

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According to Madam Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Africa faces several challenges in improving access to cancer care including the availability of the necessary infrastructure for the appropriate diagnosis of some cancers.

In some cases, she said, there are limited specialized healthcare professionals to manage cancers as well as limited access to cancer therapies and interventions.

The First Lady noted that another major hindrance to cancer care is the limited awareness amongst the general public about the disease. According to her, even though diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers is free in Ghana, a lot of women are not aware of this.

A 2018, publication by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, states that almost 23,000 cases of new cancers are recorded annually in Ghana. Out of this number, over 15, 000 people die.

Also, according to the National Strategy for Cancer Control 2014-2017, about seven out of ten women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Ghana will die from it compared to two out of ten women in developed countries like the United States of America.

These numbers, the First Lady described, as alarming. She noted that in order to overcome cancer, there must be synergy between academia, healthcare practitioners, civil society organizations, drug companies, governments and the patients.

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She added that: “We must each play our roles, while complementing the roles of other stakeholders. In this battle we are all on one side with a common enemy. If we must win, we have to come together and work together.”

She reiterated that early detection saves lives however the benefits of that arise only when the patients have the opportunity to have access to the interventions.

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