World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti says thousands of lives can be saved in Africa with proper cancer prevention, early detection, access to proper treatment and care.
Moeti made the remarks on Monday as the world commemorates World Cancer Day. This year’s World Cancer Day is observed under the theme “I am and I will”.
“A future without cancer is within our individual and collective grasp. As this year’s theme enjoins us, let us all individually and collectively resolve to end the injustice of preventable suffering from cancer as part of our commitment for Universal Health Coverage and the larger push to leave no one behind,” Moeti said in a statement.
She urged all stakeholders, specifically African governments to create an environment in which cancer risk factors are reduced and citizens maintain good levels of physical activity.
“Cancer prevention and the creation of a culture of health is an essential mission of government, beyond the traditional health-focused departments, like health ministries. Stakeholders should address the current inadequate access to cancer diagnostics and therapies, the lack of knowledge on cancer and low health literacy levels, culturally inappropriate cancer prevention materials, mistrust of the health care system, and fatalism regarding cancer cure,” Dr Moeti said.
Over 18 million new cases
According to WHO, cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide, as new cases and deaths from cancer continue to rise.
In 2012, there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths, whereas in 2018 there were 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths.
Moeti warned that if current trends are maintained, the cancer burden in Africa is projected to double from 1 055 172 new cancer cases in 2018 to 2 123 245 cancer cases by 2040.
She said that among the most important serious challenges facing cancer patients in most African countries are poverty, late and poor cancer diagnosis, and lack of medical cover.
The key drivers of the increasing cancer burden in Africa include increasing exposure to known cancer risk factors, such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diets, alcohol use and environmental pollution.