First lady calls for intensified efforts to prevent cancers in Africa

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Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo has reiterated the need to improve early diagnosis and availability of diagnostic equipment in the treatment of all cancers at the just ended US-Africa Leaders Summit Spousal Programme held in the USA.

At the meeting hosted by the first lady of the USA, Dr. Jill Biden, Mrs. Akufo-Addo said there was also the need for countries to cover all cancers in their insurance benefits package. The meeting, attended by some 21 spouses of African leaders at the REACH, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, discussed shared interests in combating cancer.

The cancer summit was held alongside the US-Africa Summit, a High-level meetings between African leaders and Biden-Harris administration officials that sought to build on partnerships to address key global objectives like national security, food security, climate change, trade and health.

The topic of global cancer prevention and treatment became a major highlight at the meeting.
Mrs. Akufo-Addo identified some information gaps in Cancers related to women and children and recommended measures in closing such gaps. She said issues including the lack of knowledge and information, late presentation at medical facilities, lifestyle practices that lead to cancer and the cost of treatment were what hindered the progress in fighting cancers in many countries.

She, therefore, recommended persistent media campaign to deal with the knowledge gap on the disease and treatment, as well as mandatory regular check-ups every two or five years depending on age and family history. She said improved dietary choices and the reduction in the consumption of processed, fatty and alcoholic beverages would also help in eradicating the cancer diseases.

Other areas that could be explored were education and training for health personnel such as oncology specialists for timely diagnosis.

“We should have concerted national campaigns to vaccinate young girls with the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancers,” Mrs Akufo-Addo stated.

She said on her part, she had been able to get Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme to cover four childhood cancers which make up about 60 per cent of childhood cancers.

“These are Burkitt Lymphoma, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, Wilms tumour and Retinoblastoma, “ she stated .
“My Foundation also raised money to build a 54 bed hostel for children receiving cancer treatment at our major teaching hospital. This helps to reduce cost of treatment and ensure treatment compliance.”

Mrs Akufo-Addo said together with Roche and the Ghana Health Service, “we are currently conducting education on breast and cervical cancers, training health personnel, screening, referring suspected cases to bigger facilities and treating early stage cervical cancers with thermal coagulation machines.”

Meanwhile, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit event held from the 13th to 15th December, 2022, Dr. Biden announced new actions by the White House’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to reduce the “cancer burden” in Africa, including approximately $300 million of funding from the U.S. government and its private-sector partners.

Dr. Biden, who has made the fight against cancer a pillar of her work as first lady, shared that when her husband, President Joe Biden, was elected to office and a promise never to waste “this platform”, but to use it to shine a light on issues that she had been working on for many years. She charged her counterparts to strive to work to ensure that they brought relief to the people by easing the burdens and sufferings resulting from cancers in the various countries.

“As spouses, we serve the people of our countries, too, ” she stated.

The African first ladies that attended the summit included that of Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo,, and Madagascar, among others. They discussed breaking down barriers to cancer prevention, early detection, and care for young women and girls around the world.

The Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) has prioritized the issue of cancer and improving women’s and children’s health. The USA is responding to the call from OAFLAD on more effective measures to fight cancer, including the use of innovative technologies for cancer screening, diagnoses, treatment, and palliative care.

This article by GNA was published by News Ghana on 18 Dec 2022

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