The World Health Organisation (WHO) Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Kazadi Mulombo has said that Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer every year, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths.
Mulombo disclosed this on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, while delivering his keynote address at the International Cancer Week commemoration in Abuja.
He informed that the International Cancer Week was commemorated annually and the theme for this year was, “Bridging the Cancer Care Gap: Improving Diagnosis and Multidisciplinary Management”.
He further explained that this was in line with the World Cancer Day which was celebrated on the 4th of February to mark the start of a three-year campaign to raise global awareness around cancer and its impacts, especially on the most vulnerable citizens.
According to him, 90% of the children diagnosed with cancer annually lived in low- and middle-income countries, therefore, renewed effort to curb new cancer cases was urgent:
“Every year, Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths. Breast cancer, cervical, prostate, liver and colorectal cancers, account for almost half the new cases on the continent annually.
“Children are also inequitably impacted. Of the more than 400,000 children diagnosed annually with cancer around the world, about 90% live in low- and middle-income countries. Survival rates are at a very low 20% or less in African countries, compared to more than 80% in developed countries.
“A renewed effort to curb new cancer cases is urgent; alarming projections are that cancer death rates in Africa will rise exponentially over the next 20 years, exceeding the global average by 30%”, the Health Expert said.
He highlighted common challenges faced in the African region to include limited access to primary prevention and early detection services, lack of awareness and education in addition to delays in diagnosis and treatment. There was also limited access to palliative care and pain relief.
Other challenges, he said, included, “shortages of specialists in medical and radiation oncology, pathology, medical physics and other essential areas compound the gaps.
“Africa has only 3% of the world’s cancer treatment facilities, with radiotherapy available in just 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which contributes to poor survival rates” Mulombo informed.
Speaking on efforts WHO was making to stem the tide of cancer ravaging the country, the WHO Nigeria country representative noted that, “to ‘close the care gap’, WHO is supporting a number of key initiatives in countries.
“They include the Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative, the Global Breast Cancer Initiative, the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancers among others. For examples, in the African region, 45% of countries introduced national HPV vaccination programmes to address the cervical cancer threat.
“As WHO we are committed to supporting the country implement priority activities towards cancer prevention and control”, he said.