The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has pledged to mobilise resources to build a cancer treatment centre in Ghana to help cater for cancers among women and children.
This, she said, would be done with support from the Forum of African First Ladies against Cancers.
The First Lady made the pledge at a forum in the USA, where she accepted a challenge thrown to African first ladies to build a cancer treatment centre to, especially, take care of cancers among women and children.
In support of the First Lady’s decision to build the cancer centre, a real estate agency, established by some Ghanaians living in the United States of America (USA) and Canada, by name Lexington Properties, has promised to provide the land to build the center in Ghana.
The forum was held on the side lines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the theme “Looking forward to a future without cancers: Implementation of access to medicines, diagnostics and treatment”.
The forum commended Ghana’s First Lady for her efforts at soliciting funds to build a baby and mother unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.
Breast, cervical and endo-uterus cancers are said to be the leading causes of cancer deaths among women in developing countries, including Ghana.
However, a worrying factor is that, although cancers were indicated as the leading causes of death among many women, the issue of lack of accurate data on the number of people who die from cancers continue to be a mirage due to the unavailability of dedicated treatment centers.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said: “Just the mention of the word cancer, invokes fear and misery because it was perceived as invariably leading to painful deaths.
“In our part of the world, cancers are often discovered late”, she said, adding that, data indicated that over 16,600 cases of cancer occur annually in Ghana.
She said data and research in Ghana, however focused on specific cancers making it difficult to know the real number of cases.
Mrs Akufo-Addo mentioned that access to diagnostics, treatment and medicines were fraught with many challenges, which included late presentation and diagnosis; lack of awareness on the disease; funding challenges; inadequate infrastructure to deal with the disease and inadequate qualified personnel.
To address these challenges and improve access on the disease, she said, partnerships have been established, targeting improved awareness, screening, early diagnosis and treatment by trained professionals.
“We are supporting community awareness creation and screening initiatives. We are educating against some traditional cultural beliefs and myths, encouraging behaviour changes and promoting healthy lifestyles” she said.
She thanked Roche, an international pharmaceutical organisation and some non-governmental organisations for their support in ensuring that issues on cancers as well as treatments were demystified in Ghana.
She noted that most cancers could be cured when detected early and therefore called on people to report early for treatment to avoid unforeseen circumstances.
Mr Charles Fordjour, Head, Africa Health Policy and Government Affairs, Roche Ghana in a panel discussion on health financing and making investment on cancers, said till countries got to a point where there was dedicated research, issues on cancers could not be solved.
Dr Leslie Mancuso, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jhpiego, USA, called on African countries to integrate breast and cervical cancer screening into their family planning systems.
She commended Ghana for integrating HIV and cervical cancer screening into its maternal health policy.
Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, World Health Organisation (WHO), Switzerland, called on African leaders to focus on partnerships, prevention and palliation in the fight against cancers.
She also called for a change on the narration on cancers as a death sentence to let people know that they were treatable so that they could seek early treatment.
Ms Princess Nikky Onyeri, Director General of Forum of African First Ladies/Spouses against Cancers, pledged the Forum’s support to the various first ladies in their fight against cancer.