Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS,) Dr. Joseph Amankwah, has disclosed that 12,700 people die annually due to cancer related diseases.
The GHS scribe revealed this last Tuesday at a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to launch the 2014 World Cancer Day in Accra.
This year’s event is under the theme: Debunk the Myths: Cancer is Preventable and Curable.
Dr. Amankwah, defined cancer simply as an uncontrolled cell growth that invades other organs of the body and stated that until recent past, cancers were not considered to be a significant group of diseases which caused ill-health in developing countries.
According to him, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 16,600 of new cases of cancers are diagnosed annually with 12,700 deaths.
He stated that the major cancers identified in Ghana are Breast, Cervical, Prostrate, Liver and Childhood cancers.
“Unfortunately, with rapid urbanization, change in lifestyles and increasing longevity and survival, non-communicable diseases including cancers, have established themselves as important causes of illness, disability and death in Ghana and other developing countries,” he said.
The GHS Public Health Director said the World Cancer Day offers the opportunity for advocacy, health education, increases awareness, commitment and supports government, Ghanaians and development partners for the prevention and control of cancers in the country.
He, however, said it was estimated that 30 per cent of cancers were preventable if people led healthy lifestyles with quality exercising, and avoided risk factors such as tobacco smoking, alcohol intake, skin bleaching poor dietary practices, exposure to toxins and radiations, obesity and infections resulting from Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma viruses.
He disclosed the theme was a statement of fact, appropriate and critical for effective management of cancers in Ghana, as most patients live with the disease for a long time, before reporting due to the various myths and misconceptions attached to it.
“In most cases, patients visit traditional healers and spiritualists, and usually come for medical care at health facilities when the cancer has advanced,” he noted.
He said patients who report early, have good chances of survival from the various available treatment options such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy including soothing care.
Dr. Amankwa charged that Ghana has the qualified human resource to manage cancer cases within and that there was no need to access health care outside the country; and encouraged those with need to access the various health facilities for their treatment and care.
Minister of Health, Ms. Sherry Ayittey, on her part disclosed that there would be a medical outreach programme for the Prisons Service nationwide, to help ensure early detection, diagnoses and treatment of cancers among that sector.
She also indicated that debunking myths and misconceptions about cancer was critical to the sustenance of efforts to reduce the disease burden in the country.
According to her, the growing burden of non-communicable diseases was changing the epidemiological phase of medical health, and needed renewed efforts and commitment on the part of government and stakeholders to contain the situation.
The Health Minister also spoke about the negative risk factors such as tobacco smoking, alcohol intake, poor dietary habits and lack of adequate exercising, among other things.
She complained about the low budgetary support of the health sector, indicating that although cancers had become the current leading causes of deaths, funding for its treatment and management had to compete with that of other illnesses.
Ms. Ayittey, however, said the MoH has received a loan facility of $30 million from the International Atomic Energy Agency of Austria (IAEAA,) for the renovation of the Radiotherapy units at the Korle-Bu and Okomfo Anokye Teaching hospitals in Accra and Kumasi respectively to improve cancer treatment.