Government to finalise National Cancer Strategy process – Minister

Kwaku Agyemang Manu

Mr Kweku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister for Health, has assured that the Ministry will hasten the process of finalizing the National Cancer Strategy to prevent and control cancer in the country.

The National Cancer Strategy launched some years ago with technical support from World Health Organization and partners, aims at reducing the increasing number of cancer cases.

The Minister in a speech read for him by Dr Baffour-Awuah, Head of Medical and Dental Health of the Ministry, said the government was doing everything possible to ensure the strategic plan comes into fruition as soon as possible for early detection and proper treatment of cancer cases.

This, when implemented effectively, would go a long way to reduce our country’s cancer burden, he stated at a two-day stakeholder meeting to discuss and share knowledge on the development of the national retinoblastoma strategy.

Retinoblastoma is one of the cancers that can affect the eye of children between ages zero to five years. It is the commonest intraocular childhood cancer in the world.

The comprehensive strategy seeks to guide efforts to improve the medical care of children with retinoblastoma nationwide through early detection.

It would also ensure capacity building in human resource training, equipment, and other infrastructure, development of clinical guidelines, and establishment of clear referral pathways, he stated.

Mr Agyeman-Manu noted that retinoblastoma was one of the cancers affecting children all over the world and is fatal if not detected early and appropriate treatment is given.

Approximately, 8,000 new cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed annually around the world.

“Most of these cases are observed in developing countries, and Ghana shares in this global burden of retinoblastoma,” he stated.

The Minister explained that the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, alone diagnoses approximately between 20 and 30 new patients each year, making retinoblastoma the commonest ocular tumor and the third commonest childhood cancer in the institution.

He said national estimates of prevalence, based on physician reports from peripheral eye centers in the country reveal that 65 to 70 new children were seen with retinoblastoma annually.

Survival from retinoblastoma in Ghana is estimated to be less than 50 percent because most patients sadly present the disease late.

Mr Agyeman-Manu indicated that the government was taking the necessary steps to develop an initial five-year comprehensive and sustainable national strategy for retinoblastoma management in the country.

“It is gratifying to note that mobilization of resources from both local and external sources to fund the treatment and psychosocial support for patients and their carers will not be overlooked,” he said.

The Minister noted that the government aims to conduct collaborative research into the epidemiology, effective ways for early detection, therapeutic intervention for advanced stages of retinoblastoma, and genetic studies to determine the biological characteristics of the disease.

He expressed hope that the multi-pronged strategy, may result in early detection of the disease and offer a comprehensive network to deliver improved care in a coordinated and evidence-based manner to enhance survival and reduce morbidity.

Mr Agyeman-Manu further stated that the development of the national strategy would also set the stage for the establishment of a national registry for retinoblastoma which would subsequently be linked to the National Cancer Registry when the latter is fully operational.

He said the government will strengthen existing structures from CHPS compounds up to the tertiary hospitals delivering specialist care for the prevention and control of cancers in Ghana.

The meeting brought together health professionals, stakeholders, development partners, and policymakers.

Source: GNA

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