Breast cancer cases increase by almost 100% in six years

General News of Tuesday, 18 September 2018



Breast Cancer 2018Dr Beatrice Wiafe Addai, says intensified education is needed to halt the worrying trend

Reported breast cancer cases have risen from a little over 2,900 in 2012 to more than 4,600 in 2018.

The latest report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) puts the global deaths from the disease at 9.6 million in 2018, up from 8.2 million in 2012.

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO)-IARC report indicates world cancer burden has gone up from 14.1 million cases in 2012 to 18.1 million in 2018.

Chairperson of the Cancers Board, Dr Beatrice Wiafe Addai, says intensified education is needed to halt the worrying trend.

Breast cancer has overtaken cervix uteri cancer (cervical cancer) from being second to the leading cause of cancer deaths in Ghana.

The disease as of 2012 was the leading cause of cancer death in Ghana; 2,900 cases recorded and about 1,000 deaths recorded at the time.

It is followed by Liver Cancer in third place, prostate cancer at fourth then colorectum cancer at the fifth position.

The findings released on September 12 concludes that limited access to timely diagnosis and treatment are largely accountable.

A Specialist in breast cancer management, Dr Wiafe Addai, describes the situation as alarming.

“It is alarming because from 2000 to 4000 means the incidence has doubled global cancer cases is high and though we expected it will rise but not this high.

“So it means that we must increase the education and awareness creation especially not among women alone but the men as well,” she said.

The incidence rate of breast cancer in women currently stands at 43 per cent whiles the mortality rate is 17.7 per cent.

But in 2012, the incidence rate stood at approximately 17 per cent, according to the WHO report.

Number of new cases in 2018, both sexes, all ages

New cancer cases recorded are 22,823, out of which 15,089 died during the period. Breast Cancer is 4,645 which constitutes 20.4 percent, Cervix Uteri is 3,151 which constitutes 13.8 percent, Liver is 2,753 constitutes 12.1 percent, Prostrate Cancer is 2,132 (9.3 percent), and Colorectum Cancer is 1,228 (5.4 percent).

The rest of the other 31 cancer types constitute the 39.1 per cent sharing 8,914 cases.

Nine thousand and sixteen (9, 016) cancer cases were recorded in males of all ages under the during the research period.

Prostate cancer leads with 2,132 cases (23.6 per cent), followed by Liver Cancer recording 2,016 cases (22.4 per cent), Colorectum Cancer recorded 658 (7.3 per cent), then Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancer recording 533 (5.9 per cent) and Stomach Cancer with 441 (4.9 per cent).

The rest shared 35.9 per cent recording 3,236 cases.

Number of new cases in 2018, females, all ages

A total of 13,807 cancer cases were recorded in females of all ages during the research period.

Breast Cancer led with 4,645 (33.6 per cent), Cervix Uteri Cancer followed with 3,151 (22.8 per cent), then Ovary Cancer with 861 (6.2 per cent), Liver Cancer was fourth with 737 (5.3 per cent) and Colorectum Cancer had 570 cases (4.1 per cent).

The rest of the other cancer cases recorded 3,843 which constituted 27.8 per cent.

According to the report, the risk of dying from cancer before the age of 75 years in females is 9.43 per cent whiles the men is 8.77 per cent.


Most women with breast cancer have little or no knowledge about the disease due to lack of awareness creation about the disease and, therefore, attribute the disease to superstition and seek healing and assistance from prayer camps, herbalists or resort to self-medication, rather than reporting early to a health facility.

Sometimes, breast cancer patients refuse to report symptoms of the disease or even discuss it with relatives for fear of stigmatisation or public ridicule.

There have been reports of their husbands (those married), abandoning them because of the situation.

Thus in addition to rushing to the hospital at the acute stages of the disease, there is also the challenge of lack of proper medications and healthcare delivery, resulting in preventable deaths.

Sucking breasts

There is a perception sucking a woman’s breast prevents cancer.

Dr Wiafe Addai says this is untrue, insisting early report and detection are the way to go.

Early detection of breast cancer, therefore, remains key to managing and controlling the disease.

State efforts

Recently, Roche, the world’s largest biotech company and the Government of Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer.

The MOU was a comprehensive agreement designed to build disease awareness, improve diagnostics, train healthcare professionals and provide access to innovative treatments.

It also included referrals pathways to tertiary centres and access to treatment for breast cancer under the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Effective implementation of these would have addressed the challenges of treating breast cancer cases in Ghana.

The Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service should have taken advantage of this MoU to intensify its efforts at controlling the spread of the disease nationwide especially in rural areas.


Education about the disease should be massive in the rural communities because most delayed reported cases of breast cancer to emerge from these communities.

Health workers must be given the necessary training and expertise to care for breast cancer patients while healthcare facilities such as the Community Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) must be well-equipped and adequately resourced in order to be able to effectively and promptly respond to breast cancer cases.

Definitely, with all these measures in place and women encouraged to report signs of suspected breast cancer cases early to the nearest health centre for treatment, the lives women would be saved from preventable deaths.

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