NHIS must cover prostate cancer treatment — Urologist

BY: Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor

An appeal has been made to the government to include prostate cancer in the list of diseases covered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

This is because many men are suffering from prostate cancer but the cost of treating the disease is beyond the means of the average Ghanaian.

The Vice-President of the Ghana Association of Urologist Surgeons (GAUS), Dr Kwaku Addai Arhin Appiah, who made the appeal in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Kumasi, said the disease was killing many men and a number of retirees were losing their pensions on the treatment of the disease.

In view of that, he said, if the government subsidised the treatment of the disease by adding it to the NHIS, it would be a significant intervention.

He explained that just as the government did for women by putting the treatment of breast and cervical cancers on the NHIS list, the same consideration should be given to men.

Dr Appiah said prostate cancer, which is a man's only disease, was also related to Black people.

“Prostate cancer is quite common in this country and worldwide. It is known that it is more common among Blacks than the other races.

“From the statistics, for every four men, there is the likelihood that one will develop prostate cancer before he dies,” he said.

Risk factors

He further explained that the disease had no known causes, but risk factors included age and a positive family history.

“If you come from a family where your father, uncle or brother has had prostate cancer before, then your risk of developing prostate cancer is almost twice that of somebody who has not had any positive family history of prostate cancer,” he explained.

The urologist said those risk factors were called non-modifiable risk factors, as nothing could be done about them.

Consequently, he advised those with family history of the disease to start screening for the disease when they turned 40 years, while those without any family history should start screening at age 45 and do it annually.

According to Dr Appiah, who is also a senior lecturer at the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), other risk factors included sedentary lifestyle, uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, smoking and consumption of red meat and dairy products.

However, he said, those factors were modifiable and contributed very little to the disease.

He said if men could control their intake of those products and exercised a lot, they could minimise their risk of contracting the cancer.


He advised men to exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on alcohol and quit smoking.

“And you must maintain a healthy body weight, a body mass index of below 30 is always better. Also, moderate consumption of alcohol and eating more fish than red meat is recommended,” he said, adding that those modifiable risk factors contributed the minimum to the incidence of prostate cancer.

“For the most important ones, you can’t do anything about them. Therefore, the important thing is to detect the disease early and not sit down to let it overtake you,” he said.

Prevalence rate

While the world prevalence rate of the disease is 200 out of every 100,000 men, Dr Appiah said in Ghana it was more than that.

“If you take 100,000 men, you are looking at about 250 to 300 of them getting prostate cancer on a yearly basis. And out of that number, nearly 45 per cent die,” he said.


He said the disease was quite prevalent in the country and, therefore, there was the need for awareness creation, “more so because people always report with advanced stages of the disease that cannot be cured”.

As part of the awareness creation, he said, September every year had been dedicated to creating awareness on the disease and GAUS would also be performing highly subsidised surgery for people suffering from prostate cancer at the various government hospitals throughout the region.

He appealed to men to get screened and tested early in order to get cured before the disease spread to other parts of the body and became incurable.

He said prostate cancer could only be cured if detected early and it was in its early or first stage.