The absence of a good and reliable data,
and a population-based cancer registry are hindering the production
of an accurate picture of the cancer burden in Ghana.
The inability to have these vital resources is also delaying policy formulation, advocacy and education to fight and control cancer in Ghana,
Dr Kofi Nyarko, Focal Person for Cancer Control Programme of the Ghana
Health Service, said at the opening of a four-day training of advocates
to fight cancer in Africa on Friday in Accra.
The National Cancer Registry at the moment is still rudimentary.
Weak human and technical capacity as well as logistical constraints
hinder operation of the cancer registry.
The training, organized by the American Cancer Society, is being
attended by participants from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania.
It is aimed at increasing cancer awareness, early detection and survivor support.
It will also connect emerging African cancer and health NGOs to
strengthen the various organizations to improve programmes and services
for affected people.
Dr Nyarko noted that health information needed a radical make-over
and the data from the central biostatistics department of major hospitals
which diagnosed cancer was often incomplete.
“If data on the central data coordinating unit of hospitals is
incomplete, then, it is understandable that data on cancers reported to the National Centre for Health Information Management of the GHS is also incomplete”.
He explained that Ghana had two institutional cancer registries in the
two major teaching hospitals - Komfo Anokgye and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospitals, but these hold data on cancer diagnosed in their departments and do not have
an overall national picture.
Dr. Nyarko noted that the major cancer in females were cervical cancer
and breast cancer which were found in the ages of 35-54 years adding that
other important cancers in females are liver and haemotological cancers and
in males, prostate cancer, liver cancer were the three top cancers.
He also said childhood cancers were on the increase with lymphomas, (Burkitts lymphomas) being the most common
Dr Nyarko called for the need to generate complete, accurate, timely and confidential data on all cancer cases, provide annual reports on the incidence, prevalence, treatment and survival of patients registered and advice on cancer related policy.
Cancer is considered one of the most potentially preventable and curable among the chronic and life threatening diseases. However, it is still a major cause of deaths worldwide.
Cancer, which is one of the emerging diseases in Africa, according to experts, occurs in about 200 types of diseases making a complexity of the
cancer story, especially in the developing world, accounting for at least
72 per cent of the approximately eight million deaths worldwide.
Experts say there are 11 million new cases each year and that cancer kills more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.
Mr. George Amofa, Deputy Director General of the Ghana Health Service said Africa was battling with two epidemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. He said almost five per cent of the population of Ghana is becoming diabetic.
“People prefer to go to the prayer camps and adopt using other traditional medication than reporting to the hospitals when they notice any symptoms of cancer,” he said, and added that “we cannot wait for people to develop cancer before we treat or manage the menace”.
Ms Johanna Ralston of the American Cancer Society mentioned tobacco use, diet activity, alcohol consumption, microbial and toxic agents, illicit drug use as some of the actual causes of cancer but added that many cancers which were highly prevalent in Africa were also caused by infection that could be prevented.
She urged participants to engage their respective governments and journalist partners to help with media and legislative advocacy as well as promote engagements that could achieve the greatest impact.