By Asmau Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said no fewer than 1.1 million new cases of cancer are recorded annually in Africa, as the continent records up to 700,000 cancer deaths yearly.
Speaking during the International Cancer Week held in Abuja with the theme ‘Bridging the Cancer Care Gap: Improving Diagnosis and Multidisciplinary Management,’ the WHO Country Representative Dr Walter Mulombo said the survival rate of the disease is at a very low 20 per cent or less in African countries, compared to more than 80 per cent in developed countries.
He said, “Every year, Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths. Breast cancer, cervical, prostate, liver and colorectal cancers, account for almost half the new cases on the continent annually. Children are also inequitably impacted.
“Of the more than 400,000 children diagnosed annually with cancer around the world, about 90 per cemt live in low- and middle-income countries.
“Survival rates are at a very low 20 per cent or less in African countries, compared to more than 80 per cent in developed countries. A renewed effort to curb new cancer cases is urgent; alarming projections are that cancer death rates in Africa will rise exponentially over the next 20 years, exceeding the global average by 30 per cent.
“Common challenges faced in the region include limited access to primary prevention and early detection services, lack of awareness and education in addition to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
“There is also limited access to palliative care and pain relief. Shortages of specialists in medical and radiation oncology, pathology, medical physics and other essential areas compound the gaps.”
According to him, Africa has only three per cent of the world’s cancer treatment facilities, with radiotherapy available in just 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which contributes to poor survival rates.
“To ‘close the care gap,’ WHO is supporting a number of key initiatives in countries. They include the Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative, the Global Breast Cancer Initiative, and the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancers among others.
“For examples, in the African region, 45 per cent of countries introduced national HPV vaccination programmes to address the cervical cancer threat.
“As WHO we are committed to supporting the country implement priority activities towards cancer prevention and control,” he added.