Four childhood cancers have been added to the benefit package of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
They are Neuroblastoma (childhood cancer of the jaw and abdomen), Leukemia (childhood cancer of the blood), Retinoblastoma (childhood cancer of the eye) and Wilms Tumor (childhood cancer of the kidney).
The Upper East Regional Acting Regional Director of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Mr Kasimu Abudulai, announced these in an interview with the Ghanaian Times, in Bolgatanga, on Tuesday.
He said research has shown that approximately 400,000 children and adolescents globally are diagnosed with cancer annually and about 1,200 children under 15 years in Ghana are estimated to develop cancer annually.
Mr Abudulai noted that “most of the cancers are curable when detected and treated early, but that only a few children receive such treatment due to high cost”.
He said the NHIA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service (GHS) would identifying health facilities that have the capacity to treat the diseases.
Mr Kasimu also noted that the family planning services, which were included in the NHIS and piloted in selected districts, would be extended to other parts of the country.
He said “findings on the pilot project revealed that when the family planning is fully accessible through the scheme in all districts, it would help save lives, cost and increase in the use of family planning methods.”
Cancer occurs in people of all ages and can affect any part of the body. It begins with genetic change in single cells, that then grow into a mass (or tumour), that invades other parts of the body and causes harm and death if left untreated.
Unlike cancer in adults, the vast majority of childhood cancers do not have a known cause. Many studies have sought to identify the causes of childhood cancer, but very few cancers in children are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors. Cancer prevention efforts in children should focus on behaviours that will prevent the child from developing preventable cancer as an adult.
Some chronic infections, such as HIV, Epstein-Barr virus and malaria, are risk factors for childhood cancer.
Other infections can increase a child’s risk of developing cancer as an adult, so it is important to be vaccinated (against hepatitis B to help prevent liver cancer and against human papillomavirus to help prevent cervical cancer) and to pursue other methods such as early detection and treatment of chronic infections that can lead to cancer.
Current data suggests that approximately 10 per cent of all children with cancer have a predisposition because of genetic factors.
FROM SAMUEL AKAPULE, BOLGATANGA