There are discussions underway to incorporate paediatric cancer care within the National Health Insurance System (NHIS).
Paediatric cancer care
Stakeholders in the health sector have urged for the establishment of more pediatric cancer treatment centers in hospitals around the country.
Access to treatment facilities is a big barrier, according to stakeholders at a National Conversation Forum on Childhood Cancers in Accra, which has resulted in the death of many children with the condition.
Dr. Baffour Awuah, Special Advisor to the Minister of Health, has called for groups to help the government’s efforts to build high-quality, low-cost cancer facilities across the country for easy access.
He stated that talks are ongoing to include pediatric cancers in the National Health Insurance Scheme, or NHIS.
Each year, nearly 400 thousand children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 are diagnosed with cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Leukemia and brain cancer are the most common kinds of cancer in children.
Stakeholders at the meeting emphasized that establishing diagnostic facilities across the country is the best approach to win the battle and avoid the suffering that children face as a result of their disease.
“Cancers have been neglected over the years, and more especially in childhood cancers. In Ghana we have two major centers that manage childhood cancers and as an oncologist at times I ask myself if you are not in Kumasi, Accra and you have to travel all the way from Bawku, Half Assini, Wa to these centers and you don’t have a means of transport, what happens to you” Dr. Awuah said.
Executive Secretary of Lifeline for Childhood Cancer Ghana, Dr. Akua Sarpong called for strong family support.
She also spoke against abandoning treatment and called for regular review of cancer patients for speedy recovery.
“When they come and they have to see the money that they have to give away just to start the treatment, it’s overwhelming, so most of the time they go and never come back. And unfortunately sometimes parents have to make their decision to just let their children die because they can’t simply afford treatment, so that is why we get a lot of these abandonment. cases, early diagnosis is everything ” Dr. Sarpong noted.
A childhood cancer survivor, Nelly Quaco shared her ordeal when she was diagnosed with eye cancer.
” I was seven years getting to eight years, I woke up one morning and found out that there was an insect bite in one of my eyes and that was all, so my mum took me to the hospital. My eye ball was out, the tumor has taken over almost all my face, and my stomach has protruded like a pregnant woman. I went through a whole lot, I can’t go to school, I can’t go anywhere, I am always in the house. Even as at that time that treatment was free, parents always run away with their kids because they call them from the house that they have a spiritualist who can help them’’, according to Madam Quaco .
The Regional Coordinator, Sub Saharan African, World Child Cancer, Emmanuel Ayire Adongo said though a lot of efforts have been put in place to support treatment, all hands must still be on deck as early diagnosis improves chances of survival.