WHO sounds alarm over growing cancer burden in Africa
The growing burden of cancer in Africa that is linked to rapid urbanization deserves swift remedial measures in order to minimize fatalities, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional director for Africa said the continent risks becoming a cancer hotspot unless governments and industries step up mitigation measures like early diagnosis and treatment.
"Over the past 20 years, new cancer cases have more than doubled in the African region, from 338,000 cases reported in 2002 to almost 846,000 cases in 2020," Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi during the World Cancer Day.
She said that breast, cervical, prostrate, bowel, colon, rectum and liver cancers have been reported in greater numbers in Africa, and in most instances leading to deaths of a productive segment of the population.
According to Moeti, old age, genetics, alcohol and tobacco consumption, physical inactivity, obesity and exposure to chemicals is behind a surge in cancer cases in sub-Saharan Africa.
"Looking ahead, the rising cancer burden will place additional pressures on resources constrained health systems and on patients and their families who incur catastrophic costs to access services," said Moeti.
She said that timely access to cancer diagnosis and treatment options across Africa is being hampered by COVID-19 pandemic.
Moeti said that African governments should invest in robust cancer awareness, diagnostic tools and treatment in order to prevent the disease from progressing to lethal stages.
"As countries work towards achieving universal health coverage with WHO's support, provision of cancer services, including pain relief, should be integrated into benefits packages and social insurance schemes," said Moeti.
She said that capacity building for health workers combined with implementation of a comprehensive surveillance system and investments in digital innovations to improve case management is key to reduce deaths arising from cancer.
"We all have a role to play in reducing stigma around cancer, improving understanding of this disease and encouraging people to seek early screening and care," said Moeti.