World Cancer Day- We can, I can

Thursday, February 4 will be World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

The UICC) works to unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, to promote greater equity, and to integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.

It is the largest cancer fighting organisation, with over 900 member organisations across 155 countries. For the period 2016-2018 the UICC campaign on cancer is being run under the theme “We can, I can”. This is to extend the reach and impact of cancer control.

The World Cancer Day 2016-2018 will explore how, everyone, as a collective or as individuals, can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer.  Cancer affects everyone in different ways.

If your close family relation is affected it may mean a loss of vital source of income. It may mean sudden loss of parental guidance.

It may mean the incapacitation for a very long period of time. This will require long period of care and support.

There may be long periods of pain and suffering by the affected. The impact itself on family members could be catastrophic. You only need to witness one going through the terminal stages of cancer (breast, cervical, stomach, etc).

There can be so much pain and suffering that sometimes family quietly pray for it all to end.  World Cancer Day is, therefore, a chance to reflect on what you can do, make a pledge and take action.

As a member of the Cancer Society of Ghana, we run several cancer screening programmes on a yearly basis. We are very much aware of the challenges people face even after being screened and required to take certain steps to protect themselves against cancer.

The Cancer Society of Ghana (CSG) is guided by the priority cancers, as spelt out in the National Cancer Control Strategy (2011-2015) which are breast cancer , cervical cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, haematopoietic cancers, gastrointestinal cancers  (including liver cancer), and childhood cancers. Collaborators of the CSG include other NGOs such as PledgePink, Robert Mitchell Memorial Foundation (ROMMEF), Reach for Recovery, Leukaemia Foundation, and the Breasted One Foundation.

The UICC 2016 World Cancer Day campaign targets these four specific areas: work together for increased impact; mobilise networks to drive progress; improve access to cancer care; and challenge perceptions. Collaborations with ROMMEF and Leukaemia Foundation will facilitate a greater impact on programmes against childhood cancers in the country.

Collaboration with Pledge Pink facilitated the acquisition of a mobile screening van for easy access to various communities within the country in our breast cancer screening programmes.

It enabled the CSG to share common platforms with Reach for Recovery and the Breasted One Foundation. I do know there are a host of others in the country, all working to assist in the control of cancers.

All these collaborators have their unique advocacy campaigns geared towards cancer prevention, which is one of the tenets of cancer control strategy.

There are many misconceptions on cancers in the country.

It is still a challenge but we will not relent. Misconceptions on cancers cut across various segments of society because of some strong belief systems.

You will, therefore, find a literate, highly trained (and educated) person who still refuses to go for further investigations and treatment because of very strong belief systems.

Sadly, such persons finally come back ready for these interventions when it is too late.

There have been calls to use persons already affected by cancer as support groups for other persons.

We would wish that we could have very high profile personalities to come out and share their experiences just to let others know that cancer is a non-communicable disease which can be managed in a number of cases.

A third of cancers are preventable.

Another third can be managed when seen early.

Persons falling within the remaining third can also be offered palliative care, at least, to make life more comfortable for them. Over the years, a major challenge has been to support persons who need further investigations and treatment after initial screening.

A number of these really lack the wherewithal, even though ready for the suggested interventions.

As we mark World Cancer Day, it is an area the CSG will seek to engage more partners in our campaign against cancer.

The UICC urges members to reflect on what they can do and make a pledge to take action to make a difference in the fight against cancer. Some have been beneficiaries of the CSG efforts to travel the extra mile in this regard.

They are back in school, at work making meaningful contributions to their families.

It makes you wonder about the several ifs……… The world health organisation estimates that, globally, more than 11 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Cancer causes 7 million deaths every year – or 12.5 per cent of the 58 million deaths worldwide – this being more than the combined total deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 15 million cases of cancer annually, 70 per cent of which will occur in developing countries.

The GLOBOCAN estimates that 16,600 cases of cancer occur annually in Ghana, yielding an age-standardised rate of 109.5 cases per 100,000 persons (National Cancer Control Strategy 2011-2015).

It is also important to add that developing countries face a dauntingtask in addressing the growing cancer burden (Kerr et al. Challenges of Cancer Control in developing countries (2011), Lancet. These are clearly issues to continue to ‘chew’ on as we mark this year’s World Cancer Day.

The writer is the Chief Pharmacist, Cocoa Clinic

By Edward O. Amporful

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