Robust cancer initiative rolled out in Africa

Saturday November 04 2023

Someone holding teal ribbon to portray cervical cancer awareness. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Women in Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe are at the centre of an initiative aimed at improving access to breast and cervical cancer detection, treatment, and care services.

The World Health Organisation-Roche initiative announced at the UN General Assembly will see women enjoy screening, early diagnosis, treatment, primary care, and screened for other non-communicable diseases.

The initiative will enhance the capabilities of healthcare professionals in delivering oncological care at the grassroots level, through comprehensive training programmes and the provision and distribution of vital cancer equipment and supplies.

Read: Africa bears heaviest cancer burden

Currently, breast and cervical cancer account for more than half of the cancer burden among women in Sub-Saharan Africa. A significant percentage of women in Africa, ranging from 60 percent to 70 percent, are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and survival rate for breast cancer patients is just one in two within five years. In high-income countries, breast cancer five-year survival rates exceed 90 percent.

“Early detection is a key contributor to better cancer treatment outcomes. With this approach, we aim to bolster the role of primary health care services to help avert excess mortality of African women from preventable cancers,” said WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.


“The health of women will always be reflected in the health of our nations, and we are taking these steps to tackle these treatable diseases.”

Early detection is hindered by lack of awareness of the disease and limited access to early detection, diagnosis and treatment services. In the 2018 Global Survey of Clinical Oncology Workforce, a single oncologist provides care for between 500 and 1,000 patients in many African countries, which far exceeds the International Atomic Energy Agency recommendation of 200 to 250 patients per oncologist.