As the world celebrate World Cancer Day on February 4 on the theme We Can. I can; the World Child Cancer Twinning Programme, aimed at developing a network of childhood cancer units across Ghana focused on “Remembering Children in the Fight against Cancer”.
It is good Ghana has made marginal progress in the management of some adult cancers, but we are losing the fight against childhood cancer. While survival rate for reported cases in developed countries is around 80 percent, back home we are struggling to save 20 percent of the children who report with cancer.
Late presentation, limited number of equipment and infrastructure, difficulty in accessing specialist care, inability of the nation to fund childhood cancer treatment are some of the important barriers.
If Ghana has only two centres that manage childhood cancer nationwide, then the nation is not ready to care for children with cancer. Technically, survival rate for childhood cancer in Ghana is just around 5 percent.
If 1000 children are estimated to develop cancer andannual reported cases were 250 between 2010 and 2014; and only 20 percent (50 out of the 250 patients) are surviving, then it is 50 out of 1000 that are surviving in Ghana. This is 5 percent of the annual expected cases.
We have the opportunity to do things right only if we prioritize childhood cancer treatment. As a matter of urgency, we need to train more healthcare professional (doctors, nurses, and pharmacist) in paediatric oncology, expand treatment access to at least three others centres (Tamale, Cape Coast and Volta regions); and equip these facilities with good Labourites to be able to detect both solid and blood cancers. This will ensure equitable access to care across the country. Without good pathological services to detect the type of cancer, you cannot begin treatment.
Aside from these, all health care professional especially public health nurses and all those who go on outreaches and growth monitoring will require training on the early warning signs of childhood cancer.
As we are remembering children with cancer on this special day, we are calling for inclusion of childhood cancer medication on the national Health Insurance drug list. This is the first pragmatic step toward showing genuine commitment to the fight against childhood cancer.
To cover the cost of medication for managing cervical and breast cancers under the health insurance but ignoring children cancers isunjust and abuse of fundamental human rights of Ghanaian children – right to access to healthcare.
If Ghana is able to do these within the shortest possible time, then we will be ready to stand against childhood cancer. There is hope for children with cancer as 75 percent of childhood cancer cases are curable if detected early. Together, we can win the fight against childhood cancer!