Africa’s first ladies declare war on cancer

African first ladies have signed a declaration on prevention of reproductive cancers (breast, cervical and prostate) and making their treatment available to all.

The declaration focuses on more information to patients, prevention, early detection, better quality treatment and using the best available medicines and technology.

It also spells out the need for people to be vaccinated against Hepatitis and Human Papilloma Virus, which cause infections that contribute disproportionately to the of cancer incidence in Africa.

The declaration was made during the ninth annual Forum of African First Ladies against Breast, Cervical and Prostate Cancer in Nairobi.

The Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference (SCCA) has become an effective platform in the fight against these cancers in Africa.

Last year’s conference was held in Namibia and 18 first ladies signed the Windhoek Declaration, committing them to intensify aocacy for human, technical and financial resources to fight cancer.

According to the declaration governments should work with the media to dispel myths and misconceptions about cancer, as well as to raise public awareness of the importance of screening and early detection for the prospects of successful treatment.

“It is time for Africa to acknowledge that we can be agents of change. We can focus on opportunities to intervene before the onset of cancer through vaccines such as the HPV vaccine,” said Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.

“Public-private partnerships in the treatment and management of cancer are necessary to cushion patients from the exorbitant costs,” she added.

There is growing evidence that about 40 per cent of all cancer deaths can be prevented if diagnosed early. Indeed, a vast majority of patients survive the disease because of early diagnosis and available aanced treatment methods.

Early detection

Medical experts say that if cervical cancer is detected while at stage one, treatment is 90 per cent effective at stage two, treatment is 65 per cent effective at stage three, 50 per cent and at the fourth and last stage treatment is 15 per cent effective.

Cervical cancer kills an estimated 275,000 women every year and 500,000 new cases are reported worldwide.

Projections show that by 2030, almost half a million women will die of cervical cancer, with over 98 per cent of these deaths expected to occur in low and middle-income countries.

In Kenya alone, 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are recorded every year with half thecases resulting in death due to late diagnosis.

According to a study by the American Cancer Society in 2010, cancer costs the world economy nearly $1 trillion. Indeed, the disease has become a significant cause of poverty for those affected and their families.

It is estimated that of the Africa’s 804 million inhabitants, 12.4 per cent will develop cancer before the age of 75 and that 90 per cent of these cancer cases will occur after the age of 40.