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WHO's Africa cancer strategy

8th September 2008

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a new cancer control strategy in African countries, where cases are on the rise.

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Experts say current knowledge and evidence could be used to prevent a third of all cancers occurring in the African region, while effective treatment could be provided to another third.

Adequate pain relief and palliative care should be available in all cases, according to WHO Regional Director for Africa, Luis Sambo.

A total of 582,000 cancer cases were recorded in African countries during 2002, where the most common forms are cancer of the cervix, breast, liver and prostate as well as Kaposi's sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The number of cases of these most common forms of cancer is expected to double by 2020 unless world health initiatives are intensified now.

Growing tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, environmental pollution and action of infectious agents are among the main causes of cancer in the African region, WHO says.

Most African cancer patients have no access to screening, early diagnosis, treatment or palliative care.

The health systems of African countries are ill-equipped to provide cancer services.

The WHO's strategy calls for further development of policies, legislation and regulations to strengthen healthcare systems, together with the mobilisation and allocation of adequate resources.

Development of partnerships and better coordination, the ongoing training of health personnel, and acquisition of adequate infrastructure and equipment for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention were also high on the list.

Strategic information management and the undertaking of surveillance and research for cancer prevention and control were also indicated.

Sambo told a WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Yaounde, Cameroon, that country ownership and leadership; equity and accessibility of services; partnerships, team building and coordination; innovation, creativity and accountability; and a systematic and integrated step-by-step implementation of interventions was part of a national cancer action plan.

 

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