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N/R: We need collaborative efforts to fight against childhood cancer in Ghana- Pediatric Oncology Nurse

A Pediatric Oncology Nurse and Lead Nurse for World Child Cancer at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) Peter Ton-Laar has called on religious bodies and individuals to join hands in the fight against childhood cancers in the country. According to him, about 30,000 of children under 19 years get cancer every year with 50 percent of these children residing in areas where there are inadequate health facilities.

He said there is empirical evidence that about one thousand children are diagnosed with cancer annually in Ghana with a survival rate of around 20 percent. This indeed is a source of worry when one considers the fact that children under the age of fifteen years constitute about 38 percent of the country’s population.

In 2018, WHO launched, together with partners, the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer, to provide leadership and technical assistance to governments to support them in building and sustaining high-quality childhood cancer programmes.

The goal is to achieve at least 60% survival for all children with cancer and reduce suffering, globally, by 2030. Mr Ton-Laar in an interview with Zaa news noted that many childhood cancers are not known but factors such as genetic mutation, environmental factors such as radiation; some viruses like hepatitis B or C, drugs are associated with childhood cancers. He mentioned that, the country currently has only two treatment centers which include Korle-bu and Konfo Anokye Teaching hospitals.

He however indicates that the treatment of childhood cancer needs collaborative efforts of medical personnel and the community for these children to be diagnosed early and get access to treatment. Explaining further, Mr Ton-Laar mentioned most frequent cancers in as to include Leukemia, Retinoblastoma (common in northern Ghana), cancer of the muscles and brains. He acknowledged the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer may include continued, unexplained weight loss, headaches, often with early morning vomiting, increased swelling or persistent pain in the bones, joints, back, or legs, lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis, or armpits, development of excessive bruising, bleeding, or rash, frequent infections, a whitish color behind the pupil.

The rest are nausea that persists or vomiting without nausea, constant tiredness or noticeable paleness, eye or vision changes that occur suddenly and persist, recurring or persistent fevers of unknown origin. He has therefore urged parents to report such conditions to the nearest health facility for early diagnoses and treatment.

Common treatments the pediatric Oncologist include; surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplant. Meanwhile the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, at the launch of NHIS week celebration expressed delight at the inclusion of four childhood cancers on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) package.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo said per the directive, the cost of treating Burkitt Lymphoma, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, WilmsTumour and Retinoblastoma cancers, which constitute about 60% of childhood cancers seen in Ghana, would be covered by the scheme. Cape Coast, Tamale, and Ho Teaching Hospitals, would be providing oncology services to bring the treatment of cancer closer to more people. Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.

By:Lilian D. Walter/zaanews.com/Ghana

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