Again, very exciting news given the alarming statistics of the growing prevalence of cancers in the whole sub-Saharan African sphere and how very limited resources we have. Having read up quite a lot about tackling cancer in Ghana for one, I was so flabbergasted to read that there were only six (6) oncologists in Ghana, tackling the cancer needs of a population of a burgeoning 25 million people. Let’s not even talk about the number of actual blood banks we have. There is such a mismatch between the actual prevalence of cancer and the burden prevalent in our different populations. It is an established trend in the arena of global health that as countries develop, there is an epidemiological shift that takes place with regards to their burden of disease. Countries will begin to experience more non-communicable diseases (like cancer, Asperger’s, autism, Alzheimer’s, etc) compared to their communicable diseases. It is therefore important for us to look farther into the future than we most often do and begin to make provisions before it becomes too much of a burden. I find that African issues only become “known issues” after they have already blown out of proportion (Case-in-point: China in Africa, the rise of the Kony movement long after it was an issue that needed priority attention, and many others).
In fact, if you ask me, it is already a pressing issue. I can recall having many friends who lost brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunties and uncles to cancer, growing up in Ghana. from primary school to high school I can say I probably heard about 5 cancer losses in different families. And this is the danger I talk about. When statistics cease to be just statistics, which are far removed from you, and become the counting numbers of people you know; When you can name an Aunty Akweley, Aunty Akorkor, Sister Matron, Ekow’s mum, Kenneth Narh, President Atta Mills and many more who battled or died from cancer; when you read statistics like today, cancer accounts for every 1 in 8 deaths, more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined; when you read that the global cancer burden is growing at an alarming rate and that in 2030 alone there’s an expected 21.4 million new cancer cases and 13.2 million new deaths, that is when there is cause for not just alarm, but constructive and sustainable action. Here is when we can be the writers of our children’s history textbooks or journals of medical milestones in the 21st century, just like they eradicated small pox.