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Early reporting key to survival of childhood cancer

BY: Emmanuel Ayire Adongo
Early reporting key to survival of childhood cancer
Early reporting key to survival of childhood cancer

While childhood cancer might be considered a death sentence with about 20 per cent survival rate in lower and middle-income countries, it is very manageable in high-income countries, with almost 90 per cent survival rate.

It is for this reason that awareness-raising on childhood cancer is very important.

The aim of raising awareness is to bring to the attention of key stakeholders the current situation and the need to support this neglected condition of public health concern to save families and children from the devastating effects of childhood cancer and its consequential effects on the socio-economic status of families.

Treatment centres

In Ghana, there are two major treatment centres for childhood cancer - Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.

The rest provide some form of treatment for childhood cancer, and these include the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Tamale Teaching Hospital, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Ho Teaching Hospital, Agogo Presbyterian Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, Techiman, and now Manhyia Government Hospital.

It is important to note that some hospitals provide treatment for some of the childhood cancers such as retinoblastoma, especially hospitals with ophthalmologists.

A childhood cancer patient

It is based on the foregoing that the International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) was instituted to create awareness of childhood cancer to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families.

The theme for the 2022 ICCD is ‘Better Survival’ is achievable #throughyourhands, with a focus on paying tribute to the medical team and healthcare workers and the positive impact they have on the lives of children and adolescents with cancer and vice versa.

The ICCD is a global collaborative campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families. It is commemorated every February 15.

Key partners

Ghana is joining the rest of the world to commemorate the day as a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC).

World Child Cancer, a key partner of the GICC, is supporting the activities in Ghana with other key partners to ensure that the day is well organised.

WHO and stakeholders selected the Tree of Life – a universal symbol of growth and renewal - to send a powerful message that childhood cancer can be cured and the well-being of survivors achieved if all stakeholders continue acting resolutely together.

Launched in 2018, the GICC is an unprecedented multi-stakeholder global effort spotlighting childhood cancer as a major priority of the international child health and development agenda.

According to WHO, healthcare professionals of multiple disciplines are required for cancer management.

Without them, technology cannot be effectively used for the management of childhood cancers and the late diagnostics and treatment of patients will cause poor treatment outcomes.

A multidisciplinary team of human resource for health is needed to support universal health coverage to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal Three (SDG 3) and to reach every child with childhood cancer.

NHIS

On November 16, 2021, the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, officially announced the absorption of childhood cancer into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) benefit package at the Accra International Conference Centre during the official launch of the 2021 NHIS week celebration.

The celebration was on the theme: “NHIS: Using the Ghana Card for expanding access to health care.”

The landmark deal covers the diagnosis and treatment of four childhood cancers, comprising Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Burkitt Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma and Wilms Tumor. These four constitute approximately 60 per cent of all childhood cancers and are highly curable if detected early.

We are very grateful to the government for this groundbreaking development on childhood cancer management in Ghana.

Collaborators

This year, several stakeholders are joining hands to commemorate this year’s ICCD, and these include WHO, World Child Cancer, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Lifeline for Childhood Cancer, Ghana, Childhood Cancer Society of Ghana, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Rotary Club International, Childhood Cancer Society of Ghana and Rotary Club International.

The writer is the Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa of World Child Cancer.