Roche Products Ghana Limited, a biotechnology company, is contributing $400,000 to support ongoing efforts to improve cervical and breast cancer outcomes for women in the country.
The company, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Programme for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics (JHPIEGO) and the Government of Ghana, is supporting the Ghana National Strategy for Cancer Control.
It is geared towards increased access to quality screening, early detection, diagnostics and treatment to help prevent or reduce the morbidity and mortality of women with breast or cervical cancer.
The Country Manager of Roche Ghana, Dr Philip Anderson, who revealed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said Ghana was the first to benefit from the global partnership, which prioritised low and middle income countries in Africa and Asia, where the burden of breast and cervical cancers was highest.
He said cancer was one of the most significant public health challenges in Ghana, and of all cancers, breast cancer was the most pervasive, accounting for more than 32 per cent of all new cancer cases among Ghanaian women in 2020.
“Women in Ghana face multiple challenges in accessing quality breast and cervical health care during their patient journey including health, mental, social and financial hurdles. Once symptomatic women encounter the health system, the disease is often already in an advanced stage.
“We estimate that one in every eight persons would be diagnosed with breast cancer in a year, so within a year, we are estimating in excess of 10,000 new cases of breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women, however, cervical cancer turns out to be the one with the leading mortality equally close to the same incidence in a year,” he said.
Dr Anderson called on the government to incentivise cervical and breast cancer screening to enable more women to utilise screening opportunities.
That, he said, would boost screening rates, especially in deprived areas, and help improve the outcome of the two diseases affecting women.
“Government or institutions should make this practice go beyond the October conversation by making vaccination a part of our immunisation programme for women.
“We must institutionalise and incentivise breast and cervical cancer screening and have them embedded in antenatal care for women to be screened and be tracked whenever they miss their appointments,” he said.
The year-long project, he said will design a sustainable model for early detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer which would be adopted and owned by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
He said his outfit launched a pilot in the Bekwai District of the Ashanti Region, adding that “we want it to be sustainable because such programmes are best implemented when the community accepts it.
“Many a time, we see such projects mentioned at the national level, but then they end up being alien to the communities, where the projects are supposed to happen.
“We will bring our expertise in diagnostics and build the regional and district health administration’s capacity to support the health system in the region,” Dr Anderson said.
He said following the implementation and outcome, the project would be extended to other parts of the country.