Lack of database on cancer hindering fight against the disease
The absence of better, reliable data and a population-based cancer registry are hindering the production of more accurate picture of the cancer burden in Ghana.
Inability of the country to have these vital resources is also delaying policy formulation, advocacy and education to fight and control cancer in Ghana.
The National Cancer Registry at the moment is still rudimentary. Weak human and technical capacities as well as logistical constraints hinder the operations of the cancer registry.
Dr Kofi Nyarko, Focal Person for Cancer Control Programme of Ghana Health Service (GHS) disclosed this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra after the launch of this year’s International Childhood Cancer Day.
The Day has been established to raise money through fund-raising events for childhood cancer needs and promote the work of local parent organisations and educate the public about childhood cancer.
Dr Nyarko noted that health information needed a radical make-over and the data from the central biostatistics department of major hospitals which diagnosed cancer was often incomplete.
“If data on the central data co-ordinating unit of hospitals is incomplete, then, it is understandable that data on cancers reported to the National Centre for Health Information Management of the GHS is also incomplete.”
He noted that although Ghana have two institutional cancer registries in the two major teaching hospitals; Komfo Anokye and Korle-Bu Teaching Hospitals, their data hold on cancer diagnosed in the departments do not reflect the overall national picture.
Dr Nyarko said childhood cancers were on the increase with lymphomas being the most common (burkitts lymphomas)
He stressed the need to generate complete, accurate, timely and confidential data on all cancer cases, provide annual reports on the incidence, prevalence, treatment and survival of patients registered, and advice on cancer related policy.
Cancer is considered one of the most potentially preventable and curable among the chronic and life threatening diseases. However it is still a major cause of deaths worldwide.
It is one of the emerging diseases in Africa, and according to experts occurs in about 200 types of diseases making a complexity of the cancer story, especially in the developing world, accounting for at least 72 per cent of the approximately eight million deaths worldwide.
In addition, experts say there are 11 million new cases each year and that cancer kills more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.
Dr Lorna Awo Renner, a Paediatrician at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital who spoke on childhood cancer said more than 100,000 deaths from childhood cancer could be prevented if all children had equal access to diagnosis and treatment.
She expressed concern about the absence of a comprehensive epidemiological data that would depict the magnitude of childhood cancers, “but using estimates from incidence data in more developed countries, about one in 500 children will be affected”.
Dr Renner noted that out of the 1,000 cases recorded at Korle Bu, the largest centre, only 150 cases were seen annually.
She explained that childhood cancer is now emerging as a potentially important disease condition in Africa, but unfortunately, most health system resources were being directed to combating infectious diseases.
Unpublished reports from the Child Health Department of the hospital recorded that childhood cancer, accounted for the highest percentage of 17 per cent of deaths on the stay wards excluding the deaths occurring in the first 48 hours of admission.
Dr Renner called for more awareness creation about childhood cancer, which he said had been compounded by adverse socio-cultural practices and limited access to services leading to late presentation.
She advocated resources for cancer control programme on prevention, early detection and care, to reduce childhood cancer.