Researchers to tackle cancer epidemic in Africa

WITH a cancer death rate more than double that of Europe or North America, African researchers have announced a range of initiatives to tackle the epidemic.

As part of its World Cancer Day activities the African Organisation for Research and Training in Africa (AORTIC) this week announced the multi-year initiative to improve cancer prevention, control and care in Africa - including partnerships with major agencies such as the World Health Organisation.

The goals of AORTIC will include development of research and training involving a range of healthcare professionals.

According to University of Cape Town and AORTIC secretary treasurer Lynette Denny the initiative would include the development of National Cancer Control Programs, standardised training programs in all aspects of cancer care and management, and increased awareness of cancer among health professionals, the media, government and the public.

This awareness will include information on the prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and palliation of cancer, and efforts to reduce the stigma associated with cancer.

"We need to ensure that cancer is on the African Healthcare Agenda," Denny said.

In 2008, just more than 650 000 cases of cancer were diagnosed in Africa, with over 500 000 deaths, representing a death rate that is more than double that in Europe or North America.

Serigne Gueye of the Hospital General de Grand Yoff in Dakar, Senegal, and the current AORTIC President, said the number of new cases of cancer in Africa was expected to double by 2030 and would result in millions of African deaths in the coming decades unless drastic action was taken.

Gueye added "in Africa there is a general lack of cancer awareness, which leads to late presentation of cancer. Most African health care systems are not in a position to address the cancer problem".

The AORTIC executive council recently led a strategic planning meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to determine the goals and action items for the initiative under the slogan, "Working together to prevent and control cancer in Africa".

Cancers that are likely to receive major attention are those that are most common in Africa, including breast cancer, prostrate cancer and infection-related cancers (cervical cancer, liver cancer, Aids-related cancers). Special emphasis will also be placed on tobacco exposure and childhood cancers.

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