Childhood cancer is on the increase in Ghana with only two out of ten children with cancer surviving in the country.
The World Child Cancer describes the situation 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 per cent of childhood mortality in Ghana is as a result of cancer, and this is mainly attributed to late report. Though the country has no cancer registry, about 240 cases are presented each year at the Korle Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals.
Only 20 per cent of this figure survives because of late report of cases to the hospital. Health professionals say 80 per cent 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 percent 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.” She 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 discourage parents to continue with the treatment.
The World Child Cancer has brought in some healthcare professionals from the United Kingdom and South Africa to share knowledge, technology, and organizational 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.