Parliament on Wednesday called for the establishment of pediatric cancer centers across the country and the increase in the capacity of specialist physicians in view of the rising incidence and mortality of childhood cancer cases.
They have also urged government to consider including pediatric cancer treatment to the National Health Insurance Authority’s essential medicines and treatment list to help families address the high financial cost of treating childhood cancers.
The Legislators made the call when they contributed to a statement made on the floor of the House by the MP for Asikuma/ Odoben/Brakwa, Mrs Georgina Nkrumah Aboah to draw attention to the need for Ghana’s health care system to reduce the incidence of childhood and adolescent cancers.
The statement was to commemorate the International Childhood Cancer Day that was observed on February 15, 2015 across the world.
The Day was a global collaborative campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families.
The day encourages increased appreciation and deeper understanding of issues and challenges impacting childhood cancer and the survivors, and highlights the need for equitable and better access to treatment and care for children with cancer.
The lawmakers also called for a national childhood cancer registry that would support research and specialized treatment and support systems, as well as increase the knowledge of health care providers, patients and their families and educators.
They contended that it was time to develop programmes and initiative for intensified public education on the issue, urging increased collaboration between stakeholders to address the matter.
Mrs Aboah who bemoaned the inadequacy of education on childhood cancers, coupled with the lack of specialized facilities for pediatric cancer management, said in view of the seriousness of the situation, there was the urgent need to address the infrastructural deficit and the inadequacy of pediatric specialist.
She urged the Ministry of Health to intensify awareness creation on childhood cancers and to collaborate with health care facilities to give free medical screening and easy access to health institutions for children, adding that all financial and geographical barriers to addressing the issue should be removed.
Mr Joseph Yieleh Chiereh, MP for Wa West and Chairman of the Health Committee of Parliament called for the improvement of Ghana’s cancer policy to reflect trends in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with cancer.
He advised that interventions should focus on the improvement of diagnostics and care facilities and the training of more personnel on cancer treatment.
Mrs Juliana Azumah-Mensah, MP for Agortime/Ziope, who is a nurse by profession, said it was heartbreaking to see children suffering from cancer undergo painful test and treatment, calling for an intensified public education on early warning signs because children and adolescent stood a better chance of being cured if diagnosed early.
She said that since the treatment of cancer was expensive, the NHIA should include all cost of treating cancers in their list of treatment.
Baba Jamal Mohammed Ahmed, MP for Akwatia and Deputy Employment and Labour Minister said children were God’s gift and that anything affecting them should affect everyone.
He advised parents to observe their children critically always and to seek medical advice on time when they detect changes in children’s demeanor or health.
Mr Kweku Agyemang Manu, MP for Dormaa Central harped on the need for awareness creation for early detection of childhood cancers to increase the rate of survival of patients.
He also called for the inclusion of the treatment of childhood cancers in the National Health Insurance treatment regime to relieve the burden that most parents go through finding resources for expensive treatment.
Globally, about 250,000 childhood cancers are recorded annually. There are no comprehensive statistical data on the magnitude of the disease in Ghana. It is estimated that 1,000 children below 15 years are affected by cancer annually and their chances of survival are usually lower than 20 percent. The disease is therefore emerging as an important cause of morbidity and mortality in Ghana.
However, the disease can be cured if timely and vital treatment is accessible. GNA