Cancer Overtakes AIDS, Malaria, TB As The Leading Killer

Staggering statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that cancer accounted for 8.2 million deaths globally, morethan AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) combined in 2012. This number is expected to rise in the coming years, according to the organization.

It projects that without immediate action the global number of deaths from cancer will increase by nearly 80% by 2030, with most occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

We have reached the point at which cancer is the leading cause of death in the world. Each year, more than 14 million people have cancer. The Project Director of the African Cancer Organisation (ACO), Paul Opoku Agyemang, whose Non-Government Organisation (NGO) has been in the forefront of cancer prevention and research in Ghana told The Chronicle .

He added: ‘Almost 70% of these deaths occurred in emerging economies, where resources for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer are limited or nonexistent, where governments are least prepared to address the growing cancer burden and where survival rates are often low’.

In Ghana, cancer control and care have remained a low priority. Although WHO and its global partners believe that avoidable deaths from cancer and other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) can be reduced by 25% by 2025 if we do something, Ghana has health systems that are poorly prepared to grapple with the double burden of cancer, Mr. Agyemang emphasized.

He explained: ‘Majority of these cancer cases present at the hospitals with late stages where cure is often impossible, but pain control is the only treatment option. Those who die from cancers normally leave behind orphans.

‘In addition, the combined effects of cancer, poverty, deprivation and infectious diseases hinder the development of a sustainable population and consequently a sustainable future’.

Ghanaians cannot currently access curative therapies, state-of-the-art surgery, or expensive cancer drugs that are the mainstay of cancer care in developed nations.

It is in this regard that the African Cancer Organisation (ACO) has embarked on a national cancer control campaign to sensitize men and women who are eligible about cancer prevention and also downstage cancers by early-detecting them at stages where cure is possible. 

Although much remains to be learned about cancer, enough is now known about the causes of cancer and means of control for suitable intervention to have a significant impact, Mr. Agyemang asserted.

It is estimated that by making changes to the food we eat, the level of exercise we undertake and maintain a normal body weight, about a third of cancers can be prevented. Another third of cancers can be cured if detected early.

The knowledge, the tools and the technologies required to fight and defeat cancer are all available. What is needed now is the system to effectively and efficiently translate the present knowledge into action -and that is what ACO is doing, he told the newspaper.

But   Mr. Agyemang noted that ACO could not do it alone, because t he infrastructure to address the cancer burden of disease requires teamwork across the health and social institutions, regional and community clinics, co-operation with directed public policy by the Ministry of Health, and partnering with institutions and industries, to longitudinally delineate the burden of the cancer, to conceive, evaluate, and implement effective cancer prevention strategies that is priority driven, cost-effective and resource appropriate for Ghanaians.

He, therefore, encouraged everyone to be a stakeholder to ensure that they all take responsibility for reducing the burden of this disease because t he cancer epidemic is huge and is set to rise.

It is a disease that knows no boundaries and has or will affect us all, either directly or indirectly, during our lifetime as a patient, relative or a friend, the Project Director of ACO stated.

Therefore, aligning ACO Cancer Control Campaign under the World Cancer Day which falls on Tuesday (today) 2014 on the theme: ‘Debunk The Cancer Myths’.

ACO would like every person, organization and the government to their part that Ghana and the rest of the world will be able to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other NCDs by 25% by 2025.

ACO is, therefore, scaling up prevention and early detection which are the most cost-effective ways of dealing with cancer in Ghana, because one in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime. This is something we should all talk about.

ACO Cancer Control Campaign, which is tailored to the socio-economic and cultural context, is to ensure that cancer information is available to everyone and also every Ghanaian has access to cancer screening.

This, Mr. Agyemang and his team believe, will help prevent people from getting exposed to avoidable cancer risk factors and also downstage cancers by early-detecting the disease at stages where cure is often possible, which will ultimately help avert the currently prevailing high incidence of cancers in Ghana.

He indicated: ‘On World Cancer Day ACO will also initiate and conduct outreach missions with various corporate institutions in the Tema Metropolis. 

‘The whole idea is to promote primary prevention of cancer to help reduce exposure to avoidable risk factors, and also early detection through culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate cancer information, awareness and educational programs in Ghana’.

The Outreach Missions Team of ACO, Mr. Agyemang noted, would be grateful to welcome invitations from corporate institutions and organized groups nationwide to sensitize the staff and members about cancer prevention – how cancer starts, types of cancers, risk factors, causes, signs and symptoms, how cancer spread, cancer screening and early detection, diagnosis, treatment, management and cancer prevention tips on diet, physical activities and body care.

We strongly believe that making this information available will reduce deaths from cancer by a third. Another third of cancers can be cured if they are detected early.

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