As Ghana join the rest of the world to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope for Future Generations (HFFG), a national women-focused, community-based non-governmental organization, is calling on the Government of Ghana and key stakeholders not to overlook the impact of cervical cancer on many women in Ghana.
In a statement to commemorate World Cancer Day on February 4, 2021, the NGO urged the government of Ghana to invest in interventions that mitigate the impact of cervical cancer which is the leading and most common female cancer among women in Ghana.
“Data from the HPV Information Centre estimates that about 3,151 new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Ghana, and despite the fact it is preventable and treatable, it is estimated that over 2000 cervical cancer deaths are recorded in Ghana annually. This is why we believe attention should still be paid to the cervical cancer response even as we combat COVID-19,” the statement said.
HFFG further called on the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service and all allied agencies to ensure there is the availability of affordable essential medicines and technologies required to control all forms of cancers among women.
“Cervical cancer is treatable when diagnosed early, so there should be equity in access to quality cancer services throughout the country. Many women in Ghana do not access cervical cancer screening or treatment because they are unable to pay. To us, this is not right and for that matter, the country should explore means to include cervical cancer treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme,” the Executive Director of Hope for Future Generations, Mrs Cecilia Senoo said in the statement.
“Life-saving cancer diagnosis and treatment should be available for all. No Ghanaian woman's chances of surviving cervical cancer should be based on her ability to pay for health services or not,” she stressed.
According to a study led by Dr Kofi Effah of the Obstetric and Gynaecological Department at the Cervical Cancer Screening and Training Center, Catholic Hospital, Battor, Ghana, approximately two-thirds (65.97%) of cervical cancer cases are presented at hospitals in their advanced stage. Awareness and early detection through regular screening will reduce this and ensure women receive intervention so cervical lesions do not develop into full-blown cancer.
The World Health Organization further notes that women living with HIV have a six-fold increased risk of cervical cancer when compared to women without HIV. HFFG also recommended that cervical cancer screening should be integrated into HIV-programming for women and girls living with HIV at all levels of HIV treatment cascade.
The statement also bemoaned the seeming lack of awareness of cervical cancer among women in Ghana. To this end, HFFG used this year's World Cancer Day to encourage Ghanaian women, aged 21 years and above to regularly screen for cervical cancer to avert late-stage presentation of the disease.
World Cancer Day is celebrated each year on 4 February to raise awareness on all forms of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. This year's theme, “I can, we can” acknowledges that everyone has the capacity to address the cancer burden.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570 000 new cases in 2018 representing 7.5% of all female cancer deaths.
HFFG is committed to increasing awareness and uptake of screening by Ghanaian women. In 2018, HFFG initiated a Cervical Cancer Awareness and Screening intervention aimed at reaching Ghanaian women with information on Cervical Cancer screening services.
As part of this, HFFG sponsored three nurses to be trained at the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre in Battor, Ghana. These nurses assist in the identification of precancerous lesions in women through community outreaches.