Ghana records about a 100 cases of childhood cancers every year, with a little more than 20 per cent surviving its treatment, due to late reporting of cases, huge treatment cost and incomplete treatment.
A pediatric oncology specialist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), Dr. Catherine Segbefia, who was speaking at the launch of the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in Accra yesterday, said more than 75 per cent of childhood cancers were curable when diagnosed early and treated with appropriate protocols.
She stated that the cost of treatment of childhood cancers which ranged between GH¢2,000 and GH¢ 20,000 could not be afforded by many, resulting in the loss of so many lives.
Dr. Segbefia, therefore, advocated the inclusion of childhood cancer treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to help ease the stress and burden on parents.
“It is difficult enough just dealing with the emotional and psychological stress, and the feeling that you can’t afford treatment, but if the NHIS will absorb the treatment, families will not pay for their wards’ stay in the hospital, feeding, drugs and most of the test that will be done , and this would increase the survival rates,” she said.
Dr. Segbefia stated that the treatment of childhood cancers required a whole inter-disciplinary team to provide not just a medical treatment of a child, but also a psycho-social support for the child and the whole family.
She asked government to invest in building the capacity of health workers to enable them to detect cancer infections in children quickly.
Dr. Segbefia called for the establishment of treatment centres in all regions equipped with the capacity to provide rapid diagnosis and adequate supportive care.
She further suggested that a cancer registry be established to help determine the size of the problem and for epidemiology.
Childhood cancer begins when normal cells in children change and grow uncontrollably
The commonest childhood cancers seen in Ghana are lymphomas, acute leukemia (blood cancer), retinoblastoma (eye cancer) and wilm’s tumor (kidney cancer)
Very little is known about the cause of most childhood cancers, but many types have highest incidence at an early age suggesting causative factors operating before birth.
However childhood cancers have different signs, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes.
By Linda Naa Deide Aryeetey