About 1,200 children below age 15 are presumed to be affected with childhood cancers in Ghana yearly, accounting for about 17 per cent of deaths, the highest percentage at the Korle Bu Teaching (KBTH).
However, only 150 of these cases are seen yearly by the largest cancer centre in the country located at the KBTH. A consultant at the Paediatric Unit of the KBTH, Dr Lorna Awo Renner, announced this at a ceremony to mark International Childhood Cancer Day held in Accra on Monday.
The programme was a collaboration between the Ghana Parents Association for Childhood Cancers and the Ghana Health Service. Quoting unpublished data from the Child Health Department of the KBTH, Dr Renner said although there was no comprehensive epidemiological data on the magnitude of childhood cancers in the country, estimates from incidence data in more developed countries showed one in every 500 children could be affected.
She said although childhood cancers were becoming a potentially important disease condition, very little was known about their cause. She added, however, that many of the types of cancers occurred at an early age, suggesting that factors that caused the disease operated before birth.
She explained that some of the factors could be environmental, including effects of radiation, drugs and chemicals. Other factors are as a result of infections by viruses such as hepatitis B and HIV, as well as genetic factors which accounted for five per cent of childhood cancers.
Most cancer symptoms, Dr Renner indicated, included signs of the eye such as white spots, squint, blindness, bulging eye, lymph in the abdomen, head, neck and glands, while others involved neurological changes in balance, gait, behaviour and headache, unexplained fever, weight loss, bleeding, pallor, fatigue, aches in the bones and back, as well as fractures.
Dr Awo Renner said although the disease was curable, the general lack of awareness compounded by adverse socio-cultural practices and limited access to health services posed the biggest challenge.
Other limitations, she explained, included inadequate diagnostic services, unavailability and affordable costs of chemotherapeutic organisations, which gave rise to very high cost of treatment and high rate of abandonment.
The Head of Cancer of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kofi Nyarko, said though the service was working hard to deal with the issue of child cancer, treatment of the disease was relatively high due to inadequate funding. He called on the government to examine the alarming figures resulting from childhood cancers and respond by including them in the National Health Insurance Scheme for their effective treatment.
The Chairman of the Ghana Parents Association for Childhood Cancers, Mr Felix Kwame Aveh, said the association was organised to contribute to promoting the needs of children with cancer and other life-threatening blood disorders.
He explained that the association aimed at providing support for children diagnosed with cancer diseases, providing information and logistics for practical use for parents, as well as organising support groups to assist children and their families to cope with the stress that the diagnosis brought about.
Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana
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