Cancer has now become a global economic problem and also a leading cause of death, according a new report by the American Cancer Society.
The report to be discussed at the World Cancer Congress in Shenzhen, China, and made available to the Ghana News Agency, says Cancer costs more in productivity and lost life than AIDS, malaria, the flu and other contagious diseases.
The Congress, organised by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC), with support from the host nation every two years, is expected to attract about 6,000 delegates from all over the world to China’s Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Centre, the venue.
UICC is the only Non-Governmental Organisation dedicated exclusively to the global control of Cancer. Based in Geneva-Switzerland, it unites about 280 member organisations in over 90 countries and regions.
Delegates are made up of Cancer and Tobacco control experts, volunteers, cancer survivors, caregivers, researchers and the media who are strategising on how to address the global cancer and tobacco menace and the increasing number of cancer deaths.
According to the report, though they attracted a smaller percentage of public and private funding for global health, Chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes had become a source of concern globally because they now accounted for more than 60 per cent of deaths.
Being the latest in one of the cancer control activities, the report said that Cancer’s economic toll was $895 billion in 2008 alone, an equivalent of 1.5 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.
“That expenditure was for disability and years of life lost and not the cost of treating the disease and its attendant problems which could worsen the situation”, the report added and called for intensified efforts across the globe to curb the menace.
The four-day Congress scheduled for August 18-21, seeks to bring together governments, Non-Governmental Organisations and health professionals among others, to help work out national cancer plans which would bring the needed significant changes in Cancer control.
The meeting this year, which is the 21st session, will also make time to work in supporting the implementation of the “World Cancer Declaration”, a global call to action put together at the last congress in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2008 detailing 11 targets that would help reverse the cancer epidemic by the year 2020.
Some of the target areas in the Declaration are the establishment of sustainable health delivery systems to ensure that effective cancer control programmes were available in all countries and the promotion, development and use of cancer treatment guidelines that were relevant to local needs and resources.
The opening ceremony held on Wednesday evening, was addressed by Eduardo Cazap, UICC incoming President, China’s Health Minister, Chen Zu, Shnezhen Mayor Xu Qin, World Health Organisation Assistant Director General, Ala Alwan, UICC Immediate Past President, David Hill, and the 2010 Congress President, Hao Xi-Shan.
Hao who is also the Vice Chief of the Chinese Medial Association (CMA) told journalists before the opening that the venue for the Congress and the meeting itself were important for his country because the level of China’s cancer prevention and treatment was below the world average.
In 2009, 20 per cent of the world’s cancer patients diagnosed were Chinese but China accounted for about 12.7 percent of survivals. “We can therefore learn from others because the developed countries had experienced this trend for decades”.
Though Cancer is considered one of the most potentially preventable and curable among the world’s chronic and life threatening diseases, it is still a major cause of death worldwide.
As an emerging disease in Africa, according to experts, the killing monster appears in about 200 different types making a complexity of the cancer story, especially in the developing world where it accounts for more than 72 per cent of the over eight million deaths globally.
The types include leukemia (blood), lung, liver, mouth, skin, stomach, prostate, cervical and breast cancers which continue to wreck the lives of Ghanaians including important personalities over the years. For example high profile personalities such as Judges, Ministers, Parliamentarians, Educationists, Economists and Businessmen have lost their lives from the disease.
Though Ghana is still working hard to put in place a national database and registry for cancer, Dr William Bosu, Manager of the Non-Communicable Diseases Control Programme of the Ghana Health Service, says there is much improvement in control measures now than in the past.
“We have made a considerable improvement in our activities. There is increase in awareness creation on preventive measures, with much effort, in the last few years, a lot have been achieved in early detection, diagnosis and improved management of cases to help increase survival rates as much as possible.”
“We also want patients to reciprocate these efforts by reporting cases early when they can be managed or treated instead of waiting till the condition becomes out of control”, Dr Bosu added.