In an attempt to forge cooperation among East African Community(EAC) in fighting cancer, health officials from countries in the region recently launched a call for better cancer prevention.The call for action aimed to mobilize countries in the region to develop a more focused policy and strategy against cancer.While curative health measures remain East African Community member countries commitment,health technocrats want to develop a policy and strategy that focuses more on preventive measures in the fight against cancer as it is much more cost effective. EAC governments need to “mobilize their resources and tackle the cancer epidemic before it drains the countries’ already-stretched healthcare facilities”. Citing data that I managed to access, there are more than 70 percent of cancer cases globally occurred in developing countries and Africa is one of them. It’s time for EAC to change our wrong perception that cancer affects only wealthy people. Cancer is now a problem faced by not only more advanced economies, but also developing nations like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and others. The call for action highlights four issues that will help EAC countries to manage the cancer disaster meaning health policy, prevention, risk factors and surveillance. A Ugandan researchers(name withheld) and working for a disease control and environmental health organisation revealed to your blogger that through the call for action, EAC leaders would hopefully have the political will to make cancer an important issue.
“In principle, we want them to highlight the fight against cancer. We are also stressing the importance of strengthening partnerships among the EAC countries in tackling cancer risk factors, such as smoking, as well as working toward a strengthened regional partnership to improve access to affordable but quality treatments for cancer,” he said.Responding to my queries, the researcher said that promotive and preventive health measures were already at the very core of efforts to fight against cancer in Uganda and the same need to be done in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Yet, the preventive efforts such as early screening of cervical cancer, regulating smoking and promoting a healthy diet would continue to expand. “We have developed early screening programs for cervical cancer using the visual inspection with acetic acid technique in Kampala and the ministry of health and government has been very active in promoting the screening.He also noted that promotion of clinical breast examination in Uganda to detect breast cancer early also continues to expand.According to the World Health Organisation,this year, it is estimated that there will be 200,000 new cancer cases per year in EAC countries. In Kenya, deaths associated with cancer are ranked as the third cause of deaths in the country.“If we, countries in EAC, can come up with the right policy and strategy in the fight against cancer, you can imagine how many millions of lives will be saved and how much suffering can be eased as we know that most cancers can be prevented as they are the result of our own poor lifestyle choices,” said the researcher who resides in Entebbe Uganda.