The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has said the time has come for the country to boldly confront the financing of cancer treatment.
That, she indicated, was necessary to bring about a reduction in the number of deaths being recorded as a result of the disease.
Mrs Akufo-Addo made the statement when she opened a panel discussion on cancer treatment in Accra yesterday.
The discussion was on the topic: “Transforming Cancer Care in Ghana: Providing and Sustaining World Class Standard Care for Our People.”
It was organised by the Association of Representatives of Ethical Pharmaceutical Industries (AREPI), with support from the Union for International Cancer (UICC) and others.
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Mrs Akufo-Addo said creating the necessary awareness might get an individual to know their cancer status but the reality was that sometimes they simply could not afford the treatment.
“As First Lady, I have done some work in the area of breast and cervical cancers and I am aware that we face several challenges as a country and continent in improving access to cancer care,” she said.
Among the challenges, she said, was the unavailability of the necessary infrastructure for the appropriate diagnosis of some cancers.
“In some cases, we have limited specialised healthcare professionals to manage cancers,” she said, adding that: “What is even more worrying is that there is limited access to cancer therapies and interventions, as the vast majority of patients have to pay for cancer treatment out of their own pockets.”
The President of UICC, Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, in a presentation, said the union was concerned about putting cancer care on the world map.
She noted that Africa was over burdened with a lot of communicable diseases and, therefore, cancer should not be allowed to also become a scourge in African countries.
She called for investment in equipment for early detection, cautioning that the economic cost of not treating cancer early was high.
Princess Dina reiterated that the time to work against cancer was now and commended Ghana for the low tobacco use in the country.
Panel of experts
A panel of experts from diverse health backgrounds spoke on the topic: ‘Providing and sustaining world class cancer care in Ghana.”
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Dr Lydia Selby, in her submission, said for sometime now breast, cervical and prostate cancers were covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
She, therefore, called on health facilities to desist from collecting money from patients for the treatment of those cancers.
Ms Gloria Yankson of Cancer Connect, an NGO, called on the government to commit more resources to equip public hospitals to take better care of cancer patients.
According to her, most cancer patients could not afford the cost of treatment at private facilities and, therefore, would resort to unorthodox medicine, if the government did not intervene in their treatment.
Mr Joao Paulo Magalhaes of AREPI said with the right equipment and timely interventions, the country could reduce its cancer burden to the barest minimum.
The Special Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr Baffour Awuah, who represented the minister, said the ministry was trying to harmonise data acrosss the country to inform policy.
Dr Awuah, who was also part of the panel discussion, said the two cancer registries in the country based in Accra and Kumasi were being equipped to perform better while other cancer registries were being established in Cape Coast and Tamale.
A Radiation Oncologist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Joel Yarneh, who spoke on: ‘Cancer care in Ghana’ said the country’s disease dynamic was changing from being burdened with communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases and, therefore, called for more awareness creation for the general public to adopt moderate lifestyles.