Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who is the Regional Director of the World Health Organization for Africa, has said that the number of cancer deaths could reach nearly one million per year by 2030 if there aren’t quick and bold changes.
She says that there are about 700,000 deaths and 1.1 million new cases of cancer in Africa every year.
She said this in a message about World Cancer Day in 2023.
World Cancer Day is an international event held every year on February 4 to bring attention to cancer and encourage people to take steps to prevent, find, and treat it. “Close the care gap: uniting our voices and taking action” is the theme for 2023.
“The numbers are stark,” Dr. Moeti said. Every year, there are about 1.1 million new cases of cancer in Africa, and about 700,000 people die from it. Estimates from data show that the number of people dying from cancer will rise dramatically, reaching nearly one million deaths per year by 2030 if urgent and bold steps are not taken.
“It’s important to remember that breast (16.5%), cervical (13.1%), prostate (9.4%), colorectal (6%), and liver (4.6%) cancers are the most common types of cancer in adults. Together, they account for nearly half of all new cancer cases. Even though it’s hard to get accurate data, it’s estimated that 56,3 out of every million people in sub-Saharan Africa are children with cancer.
“Current estimates show that Africa will have almost half of the world’s cases of childhood cancer by 2050. This problem needs to be dealt with quickly, as was done for the young girl from Rwanda.”
She did say, though, that 12 countries in the region had valid National Cancer Control Plans and that WHO was helping 11 more countries make or update their National Cancer Control Plans so that they were in line with global cancer initiatives and there were structures in place at the government level to put Cancer Plans into action.
She also said that the organization had started three collaboration centers in Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and South Africa with the International Agency for Research on Cancer to help local staff build their skills and improve the quality of data for better decision-making.
“Countries like Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, and Senegal have made guidelines for how to treat childhood cancer at the national level. Cancer Guidelines have been made and are being used in 25 countries. The political will to improve the cancer situation is still important. One good example is how the National Health Insurance Schemes in Ghana and Zambia cover medicines for children with cancer. A strategic move like this will make a big difference in the number of children with cancer who survive in these countries.
“We are working with Childhood Cancer International to create and test guidelines for children’s mental health and psychosocial support in Burkina Faso. It’s good to see that 51% of countries in the region are steadily introducing HPV vaccinations on a national level, but the fact that only 21% of people get the vaccine is still a cause for concern.
“Right now, 16 countries have started using high-performance-based screening tests, which are in line with what the WHO recommends, and they plan to increase cervical cancer screening.” The idea of gynecologic oncology fellowships to make it easier for people in Malawi and Zambia to get treatment for cervical cancer is a good one.
She said that, despite the progress, there are still problems. For example, there aren’t enough Population-Based Cancer Registries, there isn’t enough health promotion, there isn’t enough access to primary prevention and early detection services, and there aren’t enough diagnostic facilities, which means that diagnosis and treatment take longer than they should.
“Palliative care is hard to find in Africa, even though there is a big need for it. Only 3% of the world’s cancer treatment facilities are in Africa. Only 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa offer radiotherapy, which is one reason why survival rates are so low.
“By speaking out and taking action together, we can fight cancer on both an individual and a community level. We can choose healthy lifestyles, get vaccinated, and get screened regularly for cancers that can be prevented. Parents are responsible for making sure their daughters who are eligible get HPV vaccines.
“I’m asking governments to make and update national plans to fight cancer, provide long-term funding, and put money into cancer registration. I tell governments that they should include cancer care in their basic benefits packages and national health insurance systems. It is also important to have the right infrastructure in place for screening, diagnosing, and treating people. Digital health needs to be used more, and the people who work with cancer need to be trained in the right ways.
“Cancer survivors can finally use their voices to push for better cancer care. As people who have been through cancer themselves, they should be involved in planning cancer services at all levels of health care.
“Let’s work together to fight cancer and make sure that everyone in Africa has access to health care for cancer prevention, treatment, and care,” she said.