The Trust Cancer Care Academy: addressing Ghana’s cancer care crisis – a call for advocacy and action

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Dr Juliana Oye Ameh- CEO The Trust Hospital Company Ltd.

The Trust Hospital Company Ltd. convened The Trust Cancer Care Academy in Accra from June 12th to 14th, with the central theme of “Closing the Care Gap: Advancing Cancer Care through Education and Collaboration.” The event, hosted at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, brought together prominent figures within Ghana’s cancer treatment network. These experts expressed significant unease regarding the nation’s elevated cancer patient mortality rate, citing insufficient cancer care and treatment as contributory factors.

Health professionals, academicians, and policymakers highlighted severe deficiencies in data collection, the absence of a comprehensive cancer registry, and insufficient policies and health facilities.

The three-day event which saw over 800 people in attendance both in-person and online featured discussions on critical topics, including the analysis of the epidemiology of the most common cancers in Ghana, the critical issue of skin malignancies, the vital role of pharmacists in cancer care, common pediatric cancer prevalence and management options, radiotherapy techniques in cancer management, and the pathophysiology of cancer pain and its management.

Dr. Florence Dedey, a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School’s Department of Surgery and Head of Surgical Unit and Consultant General Surgeon, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital), provided insights into the epidemiology of the five most prevalent cancers in Ghana. She emphasized that Ghana’s cancer care and treatment policies and data are notably outdated and insufficient. Dr. Dedey emphasized that “the current policy guiding cancer care in Ghana, the National Cancer Control Plan, was designed to be effective from 2012 to 2016, yet it has not undergone recent revisions. She also highlighted the constrained availability of data and the probability that the cancer statistics are underestimated”.

Dr Florence Dedey-  Speaker  Day 1- Senior Lecturer, Department of Surgery University of Ghana Medical School: Head, Surgical Unit and Consultant General Surgeon, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital

Dr. Dedey advocated for the implementation of a robust cancer registry to bridge the data gap for cancer patients in the country, thereby enabling cost-effective interventions, research, and surveillance.

Dr. Wallace Odiko-Ollenu, representing Dr. Mary Efua Commeh, Programme Manager for Non-Communicable Diseases at Ghana Health Services, highlighted the deficiencies in cancer care and treatment, particularly in the realms of financing, healthcare personnel, education, and information exchange. He lamented the resultant trend of cancer patients seeking treatment from unqualified practitioners.

Dr. Wallace underscored the pivotal role of education and collaboration in enhancing cancer care and treatment in Ghana. He stressed that providing comprehensive information about diagnoses, treatment options, and available support services empowers patients to make informed decisions about their healthcare”.

Furthermore, he advocated for interdisciplinary teamwork among health professionals to enable early identification and intervention in cancer and urged healthcare practitioners to remain abreast of advancing cancer treatment technologies and trends.

Dr. Paa Gyasi Hagan, a Senior Physician Specialist and Dermatologist delivered a presentation on the topic “Malignancies of the Skin: Should Clinicians be Alarmed?”

Following this, Pharm. Anthony Avege, a Pharmacist at the Oncology Unit of The Trust Hospital, provided insights on “The Role of the Pharmacist in Cancer Care.”

Upon the conclusion of the first day, all participants in attendance, including both medical and non-clinical attendees present and online, were acquainted with the prevalent types of cancers in the country, the available infrastructure, and the types of treatment offered in the country.

On the second day of the event, numerous distinguished speakers presented their expertise on various aspects of cancer care. Dr. Mary-Ann Dadzie, a Specialist Radiation Oncologist from the Department of Radiotherapy at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, delivered a discussion on childhood cancers, emphasizing prevalence and management options. Dr. Lawrence Osei-Tutu, a Senior Specialist Paediatrician from the Paediatric Haematology/Oncology Unit at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, also addressed common pediatric cancers, focusing on their prevalence and management strategies.

A section of attendees at the second edition of the Trust Cancer Care Academy

Dr. Mervin Boakye Agyeman, a Clinical Oncologist at the National Centre for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, delivered a presentation focusing on cancers in Ghana.

Additionally, Mrs. Naomi Oyoe Ohene Oti, Head of Nursing at the same center, provided insights on oncology nursing and finally Dr. Naa Adorkor Aryeetey, a Specialist Clinical Oncologist at the aforementioned center, imparted knowledge on radiotherapy techniques in cancer management.

During the third-day session, Professor Mawuli Gyakobo delivered a comprehensive presentation on the pathophysiology of cancer pain and its management. He articulated that cancer pain encompasses three distinct types, namely physical, psychosocial, and spiritual, each presenting unique characteristics and necessitating different assessment methodologies. Professor Gyakobo underscored the significance of precise pain measurement in determining suitable medication, diligent monitoring for timely administration, and appropriate response to patient grievances.

Subsequently, Professor Yaw Boateng Mensah, a distinguished Fellow of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons and the West African College of Surgeons, as well as an esteemed Associate Professor and Head of the Radiology Department at the University of Ghana Medical School, delivered an enlightening discourse on Radiological Investigations in Cancer Management and contemporary trends.

Dr. Henry J. Lawson, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Community Health at the University of Ghana Medical School, delivered a presentation on postgraduate training in cancer care and surveyed the available options. The emphasis of his address centered on the imperative nature of ongoing education and training for healthcare professionals to remain abreast of the progress in cancer treatment and care.

Taking her turn to address participants, Dr. Juliana Oye Ameh, Chief Executive Officer of The Trust Hospital, underscored the significance of the Trust Cancer Care Academy. She noted that since its commencement last June, the initiative has served as a distinctive platform for both healthcare and non-healthcare professionals to acquire comprehensive knowledge about cancer care and the diverse treatment modalities available. Dr. Ameh articulated, “The primary aim of the initiative was to ensure universal access to learning and growth opportunities, irrespective of one’s professional role or affiliations, thus advancing the field of cancer care.”

Furthermore, she emphasized that the academy stands as a testament to The Trust Hospital’s unwavering commitment to the pursuit of education and the attainment of excellence in healthcare provision.

About The Trust Cancer Care Academy

The Trust Cancer Care Academy convened by The Trust Hospital Company Limited, the leading private hospital in Ghana has emerged as a critical platform for advocating cancer care in Ghana, uniting leading experts, researchers, and professionals committed to cancer research, treatment, and care.

The event furnishes a comprehensive overview of the latest advancements in cancer research, innovative treatment methods, and improvements in patient care. Additionally, it serves as an essential networking opportunity for professionals in the field, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.

In its second year, this year’s academy underscored the pressing need for enhanced cancer care infrastructure, updated policies, and extensive data collection to tackle the escalating cancer burden in Ghana. The Trust Hospital’s initiative to drive advocacy, care, and treatment for cancer underscores its dedication to keeping all stakeholders in the healthcare and cancer space informed and updated on emerging trends and treatment choices.

The call for advocacy and action is resounding. With the continuous efforts of The Trust Cancer Care Academy and the collective commitment of health professionals, policymakers, and the community, there is optimism for substantial enhancements in cancer care and treatment in Ghana. Together, we can close the care gap and promote cancer care through education and collaboration- SPICE-UP- The Trust way!

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