Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General of Ghana Health Service (GHS), has called for an increased investment in addressing breast cancer issues.
The economic burden of breast cancer in Ghana, he said, amounted to some US$1,084 in direct annual cost per patient and US$ 2,061 in indirect annual cost per patient, respectively.
Thus, the complexity of the disease necessitated stakeholders to collaborate, create awareness, promote prevention and early detection, advocate for increased investment in care for diagnosed patients, and to improve funding for prevention and control.
Dr. Kuma-Aboagye made the call at the breast cancer media engagement, organised by the Ghana Health Service in Accra, as part of activities to mark the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The theme for this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month is : “Working together to close the cancer care gap”.
The month of October is designated to sensitise women especially, on breast cancer and to encourage regular screening and early detection.
The Director-General said the impact of the menace went beyond health to impact the whole of society. Hence, the Service had re-oriented its strategies beyond prevention and control.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the Service had strengthened the training and capacity development of its community health workers and other cadres in clinical breast examination and integrated breast and cervical cancer screening service.
It had also, in collaboration with the School Health Education Programme, created awareness and sensitisation at the community level.
At the national level, he said, breast cancer screening and treatment had been captured in the Essential Services Benefit Package to ensure that breast cancer care was supported by the National Health Insurance Scheme, thereby preventing catastrophic health expenditures.
Dr Efua Commeh, Programme Manager, Non- Communicable Diseases, GHS, said it was necessary to increase awareness creation on breast cancer because people still felt that it was far away from them.
According to the Global Cancer Observatory reports in 2020, a total number of newly confirmed cancer cases of 24,009 – about 18.7 per cent, representing some 4,482 cases – were breast cancer.
Almost 50 per cent of the cases were fatal.
Dr Commeh cautioned against the stigmatisation of breast cancer victims and survivors, saying it was one of the challenges that must be eradicated.
“… We have survivors, people who have been treated and are still with us, but unfortunately because of the stigma, people do not want to talk about their disease. They feel that even their families will be stigmatised,” she stated.
The Programme Manager said breast cancer was such that almost every health worker must be able to screen, however, some would refer clients to a higher ‘sense’.
She, therefore, appealed to Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, industries and foreign donors for funding for capacity building of staff and breast cancer programming.
Dr Naa Adorkor Aryeetey, Clinical Oncologist, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, said collaboration and partnership in breast cancer advocacy could not be over emphasised.
She said advocacy worldwide had been instrumental in providing funds to cater for cancer patients as well as for research.
Dr Aryeetey added that it also acted as a pressure group to influence governments for policy change and the partnerships were to ensure that cancer outcomes were improved.
The Clinical Oncologist said there were many gaps in breast cancer care in the country, including delays in presentation for various reasons, delays in diagnosis and delays in patients receiving treatments.