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African First Ladies To Discuss Cervical, Breast Cancer At Nairobi Conference   
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About 30 African First Ladies, including Ghana’s First Lady, will converge on the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) for the 9th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) Conference scheduled for Nairobi, Kenya from July 19-22, 2015.

The conference, which is organised every year to create awareness of the disease, is on the theme: “Investing to Save Lives: The Role of Public Private Sector Partnerships”.

The African First Ladies, worried about the increasing number of deaths on the continent through cervical, breast and prostate cancer, formed the Forum of African First Ladies Against Breast, Cervical and Prostate Cancer in 2007.

The move was to create awareness and utilise existing opportunities to reduce the burden and deaths from the three cancers, which are the main killers in Africa today.
Estimated cancer deaths

Every year, an estimated eight million people die from cancer globally. Of these deaths, 70 per cent occur in developing countries, majority of which are in Africa.

Having recognised the huge burden of breast, cervical and prostate cancer in Africa, the SCCA Conference is held in July every year to raise awareness and support interventions for cancer prevention, treatment and control.

While the annual SCCA Conference has been effective in raising awareness of cervical, breast and prostate cancer in Africa, a lot still remain to be done to expand access to prevention, treatment and palliative care services in many countries of Africa.

In a pre-departure interview, the First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama, indicated that breast and cervical cancers were a great challenge to the health of women in Ghana like many other African countries.

She said about 1,500 women die from cervical cancer each year in this country, adding that most women affected by the disease were either not able to get medical treatment or sought medical care too late.

She said cervical cancer occurred when the cells at the opening of the womb grew abnormally and one of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer was abnormal vaginal bleeding, but in some cases there might be no obvious symptoms until the cancer had progressed to an advanced stage.
Major killer

The disease is a major killer which often affects women at the end of their reproductive years, from 40-50 years, but it can, however, also affect adolescent girls. The causes of cervical cancer include early initiation into sexual activities, unprotected sex with multiple partners, among others.

According to the First Lady, research showed that there were approximately 500,000 cervical cancer cases per year, resulting in around 275,000 deaths worldwide, of these, 80 per cent occur in developing countries and 25 per cent in Africa.

The First Lady strongly believed that there was the need to create awareness and utilise existing opportunities to reduce the burden and deaths from breast, cervical and prostate cancers which were the major causes of death in Africa today.

She added that the African First Ladies’ participation in advocating for more effective ways of communication and social mobilisation efforts for cancer prevention and control activities would alleviate the suffering of Ghanaians in particular and Africans in general.
Windhoek declaration

At last year’s conference hosted by Namibia, the First Ladies signed the Windhoek Declaration, committing them to stop the spread of cancer in their respective countries.

In the Windhoek Declaration, the 18 First Ladies who attended the conference pledged to intensify advocacy for adequate human, technical and financial resources to achieve universal access to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations, treatment and care for cancers.

The First Ladies also affirmed their commitment to work with religious, traditional and community leaders, as well as civil society organisations and the media to promote awareness and disseminate accurate health information.

“We will redouble our efforts to mitigate misconceptions and stigma attached to cancer and integrate cervical, breast and prostate cancers, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health programmes,” said the First Ladies in the declaration.
Source: Daily Graphic

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