The treatment of cancer will be added to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health, Dr Sylvester Anemana, has disclosed.
He explained that the measure would help save the life of many victims who were left to decide what to do with their lives and later resort to herbal treatment.
“It is our desire as a ministry to make significant steps in our effort to raise awareness and care for people with cancer,” he said.
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Dr Anemana was speaking at a World Cancer Day symposium in Accra, on the theme: “Dispelling the Damaging Myths and Misconceptions about Cancer”.
“It is estimated that, about 12.4 per cent of people living in Africa will develop cancer after the age of 40, meaning that if we take pragmatic steps now, we can save a lot of lives of those who struggle to purchase the medicine,” he said.
He said the government had put the necessary measures in place to rebuild the radiotherapy and the nuclear medicine facilities at the Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye teaching hospitals to care for the many Ghanaians suffering from cancer.
“We must start to develop basic environmental standards that will protect us and our children from the harmful effects of industrial and domestic pollutants,” he said.
Dr Anemana indicated that the use of harmful chemicals in food preparation, weak enforcement of environmental bye-laws and industrial waste management must be given critical attention as they could create the necessary conditions for cancer diseases to fester.
He said the myth about cancer could only be dispelled with serious and continuous education that would also allow people to identify the risk factors and to deal with them.
According to the Radiation Oncologist of the Radiotherapy Department at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Dr Clement Edusa, 307 reported cases of breast cancer; 221 cases of cervical cancer and 151 cases of head and neck cancer were recorded at the hospital.
He said cancer now accounted for more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatise B, Malaria and hypertension and must be given the needed attention and create awareness about the disease.
Dr Edusa said it was estimated that between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the disease, estimated to be 21.4 million new cases, were predicted to occur by 2030.
For instance, he said, it was estimated that cervical cancer would kill as many as 430,000 women per year, virtually in the developing countries.
The Chairman of Trustees of the Cancer Society of Ghana, Professor Edwin Wiredu, said the impact of cancer on individuals, communities and populations threatened to prevent the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
He said cancer negatively impacted families’ ability to earn an income with high treatment costs, pushing them further into poverty.
He said cancer threatened further improvements in women’s health and gender equality, adding that just two cancers – cervical and breast – together accounted for over 750,000 deaths each year, with the large majority of deaths occurring in developing countries.
Story by Jennifer Ansah & Matilda Marozzi