Nuclear security experts and diplomats from Europe, North America and 13 African countries have visited a newly installed cancer treatment facility at the National Centre for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra.
The visit was part of an ongoing one-week workshop on nuclear security policy and practice organised by the African Centre for Science and International Security.
Delegates witnessed practical steps being taken by Ghana to ensure secure and safe use of radiological material for cancer treatment. They were briefed on the efforts of the Ministry of Health to expand access to quality cancer treatment services in the country by purchasing two non-isotopic treatment machines called Linear Accelerators for the Centre.
Currently, Ghana has three cancer treatment centres – two public and one private.
The Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching hospitals are government owned cancer treatment facilities, while the Sweden Ghana Medical Centre is privately owned.
The two public hospitals were the first to introduce LINACs for improved cancer care and enhanced radiological security in Ghana.
Welcoming the delegation, the Director of the National Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine Centre at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Joel Yarney, said cancer was a public health problem in Ghana.
He said the situation was more worrisome following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prediction of an increase in the incidence of cancer cases in developing countries, including Ghana.
Dr Yarney said common cancer types recorded at the centre included breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostrate cancer, head and neck cancer.
The centre treats on average 70 patients per day, totalling about 15,00 patients a year.
The Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and the Sweden Ghana Medical Center also treat about 800 and 400 patients, respectively.
Dr Yarney noted that WHO had estimated that there were 16,000 new cancer cases in Ghana each year.
He said the large difference between the estimated cases and reported cases suggested that there was the need to raise awareness of cancer in Ghana, increase treatment facilities to other regions of the country, especially the northern part of the country and to make cancer treatment affordable to ordinary citizens.
“Unfortunately we do not have adequate centres in the country. Ghana needs to have at least six treatment machines for her 26 million people.” he said.
Currently, he said, there was no cancer treatment facility in the northern part of the country.
“As such, patients have to travel long distances in order to access treatment and, this might not be possible for many Ghanaians living in the northern belt,” he said.