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WHO calls for robust measures to tame Africa’s soaring cancer fatalities

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Nairobi: Sub-Saharan African countries should come up with targeted interventions like enhanced surveillance, timely diagnosis, treatment and care in order to tame the rising fatalities linked to cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Saturday during World Cancer Day.

Cancer is straining the continent’s public health infrastructure besides worsening poverty and inequality, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, adding that 1.1 million new cancer cases and about 700,000 deaths are occurring in Africa annually, reversing previous gains made to prolong life expectancy in the continent.

“Data estimates show a considerable increase in cancer mortality to nearly one million deaths per year by 2030, without urgent and bold interventions,” said Moeti.

According to the WHO, the most common cancer cases in adults across Africa include breast and cervical cancer for women, and prostate, colorectal and liver for men with current projections indicating that the continent will account for nearly 50 percent of the global childhood cancer burden by 2050.

Moeti said the continent has nevertheless made significant strides in the war against cancer with 12 countries already having strong national cancer control plans and several others having developed national treatment guidelines for childhood cancer.

She noted that political goodwill has revitalized the cancer fight in Africa where 25 countries have developed and are using cancer guidelines while others have integrated diagnosis and treatment of the disease in their national health insurance schemes.

Moeti lauded 16 African countries that have introduced high-performance-based cancer screening tests in line with WHO recommendations, adding that greater uptake of vaccines against cervical cancer targeting adolescent girls has averted many deaths.

The establishment of cancer registries, training of healthcare workers, and investment in diagnostics, research, therapeutics and palliative care will be key to reducing deaths linked to cancer in the continent, she said.

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