Late diagnosis blamed for high cancer fatality

Ignorance on the part of some health professionals and parents has been identified as a major cause for the late diagnosis and associated high fatality rate among Ghanaian children suffering from cancer.

Dr Baffour Awuah, Medical Director of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), said some children were dying needlessly from cancers because of actions and inactions of both health professionals and parents.

“If practitioners have an eye to look for hidden symptoms of the disease they could detect them early for treatment,” he stated.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the Ashanti Regional Branch of the Ghana Parents Association of Children with Cancer (GHAPACC) in Kumasi.

The Paediatric Oncology Unit of KATH is the driving force behind the formation of the association, to bring parents of children of cancer together to create awareness of the disease and also assist raise funds to support the treatment of needy cancer children at the facility.

Dr Awuah, an Oncologist, said almost all children diagnosed of cancer die within the first five years due to the bad nature of their situation at the time of reporting.

But, he emphasised, the story could be different if they are diagnosed early and the parents are able to afford drugs required for treatment.

He noted that poverty was the main factor accounting for the default in cancer treatment and hailed the formation of the association, something, he said, would ensure the deeper involvement of relatives of cancer patients in the treatment and management of the disease.

Dr Joslin Dogbe, Head of Paediatric Cancer Unit of the referral facility, said about 1,197 child cancer cases had been reported at the Unit within the last 15 years.

He observed that about 80 per cent of childhood cancers were curable if diagnosed early.

Some of the early signs of cancers in children include pallor, sores, bleeding, painless lumps or swellings, eye color changes, unexplained weight loss, abdominal swelling, prolong fever and bone pain.

He said most patients were unable to afford treatment cost, while the Unit also needed refurbishment, equipment and treatment materials.

Professor S.O Asiama, Ashanti Regional Chairman of the National Peace Council, said it was pathetic children should be dying because of poverty and invited all Ghanaians to contribute financially to support the treatment of children with cancers. GNA

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