Cancer is a major public health problem worldwide and Ghana has not been spared of this ever-growing canker. The medical definition of cancer states that, it is a disease that is associated with abnormal growth of cells in the body.
These cells multiply in an uncontrolled manner and invade nearby tissues if it goes untreated. In some cases, cancer spreads through body cavities, blood and lymphatic system.
Several types of cancer exist. According to WHO 2012 cancer data, the five most common cancers in the world are Lung cancer (13 %), breast cancer (12%), colorectal cancer (10%), prostate cancer (9%) and stomach cancer (7%) and treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy.
Some studies have been able to prove that certain substances are responsible for cancer. In Ghana, the most dominant cancers reported in females are breast and cervical cancers, while in males, prostate, head and neck cancers dominate.
Approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low and middle- income countries. It is projected that by the year 2030, about 10 million cancers would be diagnosed each year in less developed countries. More cancers occur in the Europe and America than in Africa, yet more cancer patients die in Africa than in the Europe and America.
The big question is, “how can we prevent the early death of patients having cancers?”
Research shows that up to 50% of cancer cases and deaths are preventable. Cancer prevention is the most cost-effective and sustainable long- term strategies for the control of cancer and I believe that early detection is one of the major ways to prevent cancer death.
Records at the nations cancer centres indicate that, majority of cancer cases are presented late when the disease has reached terminal stages. Detecting cancer at an early stage is a good prognostic factor and there is a possibility to cure the cancer with the early treatment given.
Patients having history of cancer in their families can put measures in place to avoid getting cancer by going for early genetic testing /screening. For example, the Oscar -award winning Actress, Angelina Jolie found out through genetic testing that she is at high risk for breast cancer. She therefore ultimately decided to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing the cancer. Based on this example, she has been able to escape breast cancer and death. (komen.org/blog/Angelina Jolie)
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommended ways to avoid or control things known to cause cancer. These include changes in diet and lifestyle; smoking, excessive alcohol consumption etc., finding pre-cancerous conditions, earlier chemo-prevention or medicines to treat a pre- cancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting and risk- reducing surgery, to lower cancer prevention.
These are some of the evidence-based cancer prevention strategies from NCI, which also runs the cancer prevention fellowship.
Among other measures, the country, as a matter of fact the Ghana Health Service and the Health Ministry, must embark on concerted effort to develop a better nationwide strategy for cancer control. This can be done by making cancer awareness programs effective and creation of cancer screening centres with well- equipped detection, diagnosis, and treatment equipment.
And also making cancer detection screening part of the national health insurance policy. I believe this move will influence more people to willingly walk into approved health facility for cancer detection screening just like any other laboratory test done at the hospital.
Cancer disease is killing more Ghanaians, and as citizens, we cannot sit unconcern. Cancer can be controlled; cancer can be treated, but with early detection.
By: Delali Dzandu
BSc. Physician Assistant studies
University of Cape Coast.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."