Childhood Cancer in Ghana on the Increase

child-cancer-ghanaChildhood Cancer is on the increase in Ghana with only two out of ten Children with Cancer surviving.

Out of a global figure of around 200,000 children presenting with Childhood Cancer annually, approximately 160,000 (80%) live in developing countries.

World Child Cancer, who is working to build a network of healthcare systems in Ghana to improve early diagnosis and treatment through the support of UK Aid from the UK Government, has been working hard to improve the survival rates of Children with Cancer, increase public and professional awareness, achieve earlier diagnosis, decrease abandonment of treatment and provide support for patients.

World Child Cancer describes the situation in Ghana as disturbing and has called for concerted efforts to improve the threat of child cancer to the country’s future human resource base.

According to a report, 17% of childhood mortality in Ghana is as a result of cancer, and this is mainly attributed to late reporting. Although the country has no cancer registry, about 240 cases are presented each year at the Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals.

According to Professor Lorna Renner, Head of Childhood Cancer of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the most common Childhood Cancers in Ghana are Lymphomas, Leukaemias, Retinoblastomas which affect the eyes and Wilms (Kidney) cancer which collectively formed over 70% of cancers.

Only around 20% of this figure survive due the fact that they were presented at a late stage and the team could then offer only palliative care instead of curative treatment.

Another problem is that treating Childhood Cancer is very expensive and up to 40% of families abandon treatment mainly due to the costs the families have to bear.

Health professionals say 80% of cancers in children are curable but most of the children are brought in late, resulting in needless deaths.

Programme Coordinator of World Child Cancer-Ghana, George Achempim, says even though the increasing trend is worrying, it also means more children with cancer are getting access to treatment.

About 1,000 children are estimated to develop cancer in Ghana every year but most parents do not send their children to the hospital for treatment, thus, the country records less than 300 cases. This means that about 700 and more children with cancer go without treatment”.

The Head of Paediatric Oncology Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr Vivian Paintsil, tasked health professionals to be cancer consciousness to encourage early detection of the disease:

80% of childhood cancer can be treated but we are losing more children with cancer because of late presentation of the cases to the health facilities. Most parents bring their children very late where little can be done to save the child.”

Paintsil called on the government and other stakeholders to assist in the treatment cost of Child Cancer to save lives. She said the expensive nature of the treatment sometimes discourages parents to continue with the treatment.

Problems encountered in Ghana include:

  • Low public awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancers
  • Poor ability to access early diagnosis and treatment
  • Widespread poverty and inequality
  • High child mortality rates
  • Local healthcare systems are often underdeveloped, ill-equipped with drugs and other vital materials
  • Limited specialised knowledge to provide adequate support and care

The World Child Cancer has brought in some healthcare professionals from the United Kingdom and South Africa to share knowledge, technology, and organisational skills with their counterparts in Ghana.

The annual Twinning Programme targets Paediatric Oncology Healthcare Professionals to develop their capacity to better manage Paediatric Oncology cases.

A paediatric oncologist from South Africa, Dr Alan Davidson, entreated parents to seek medical care when they find anything unusual about their children.

Ghana currently has only 3 trained oncology paediatricians and there is no oncology paediatric nurse. The World Child Cancer has therefore been stressing on the need to train more paediatric oncology doctors and nurses.



About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 25 November, 2016, in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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