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Early Diagnosis & Prevention

It is thought that up to one third of cancers are curable if treated early. National programmes to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the signs and symptoms of cancer will help promote early detection and better survival outcomes. Another third of cancers are preventable. For example, cervical cancer is one of the most common female cancers. Africa has 9 times the incidence of cervical cancer compared to the USA and 24 times the mortality - despite the fact that almost every case is preventable through a programme of screening, treatment and vaccination.Our projects in this are to date are:

AfrOx, the ESMO Developing Countries Task Force and UICC (Union for International Cancer Control) worked
together with key African stakeholders to develop a series of 13 cancer prevention and awareness posters
designed for use in Africa. The posters will help improve the general public?s understanding about the early
signs of cancer and of how simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the likelihood of developing many
cancers. The posters are free to download on the AfrOx website at www.afrox.org/cancerposters and can be
used by any organisation or individual, and in any country in the world. The posters have been endorsed by
the African Organisation of Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) and were also reviewed by the WHO
Africa Regional Office. The French and Swahili versions of the posters were launched at the September

Advocacy Toolkit:
AfrOx, the ESMO Developing Countries Task Force, AORTIC and the UICC also collaborated to develop an
Advocacy Toolkit to encourage and assist African cancer advocates at the political level by pursuing and
pushing for improvements in cancer health promotion, early detection, treatment and care in Africa by raising
awareness among government leaders, opinion makers, health policymakers and the general public, in order
that sustainable and affordable measures to tackle cancer can be put in place. It gives advice on the types of
advocacy that can be employyed and provides case studies showing how the approach has worked in African
nations and around the world




  • Towards the Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Africa Conference, Oxford, March 2009

    AfrOx, in partnership with Cardiff University, held an international meeting at St. Catherine's College, Oxford in March 2009 to set down a strategy for preventing cervical cancer in Africa and issue an international call for action in combating the disease.

    The landmark conference 'Towards Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Africa' was attended by health ministers from African nations, African doctors, and advisors, the World Health Organization, representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, leading international oncologists, and major global cancer organizations and charities.

    Globally there are over 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer annually and in excess of 270,000 deaths, accounting for 9% of female cancer deaths.  85% of cases occur in developing countries and in Africa it is the commonest cancer in women with incidence frequently equating with mortality in the absence of healthcare facilities to deal with the condition.

    Mortality rates vary seventeen fold between the different regions of the world. Cervical cancer contributes over 2.7 million years of life lost among women between the ages of 25 and 64 worldwide, some 2.4 million of which occur in developing areas and only 0.3 million in developed countries.  Around the world a women dies of cervical cancer every 2 minutes.

    Cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates have declined substantially in Western countries following the introduction of screening programmes.  Screening programmes in Africa, are however, often rudimentary or non-existent.

    The vast majority of women who suffer cervical cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa present with disease advanced far beyond the capacity of surgery or other treatment modalities to offer cure.  Palliative care services are very poorly developed and therefore these unfortunate women are sentenced to a miserable end of life, with the cancer penetrating deep into the tissues of the pelvis resulting in pain, bleeding, fistula formation, bowel and ureteric obstruction.

    Yet, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers through primary and secondary prevention: prophylactic Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cervical screening.

    There was great excitement from the delegates about the impact that the introduction of the HPV vaccine could have in Africa. The costs of doing this have so far been prohibitive, as a course of vaccine jabs costs $360 per girl, and is therefore way beyond the budget of most African governments.  The delegates agreed that efforts need to be made to lower the cost of the vaccine for developing countries.

    Early detection is also crucial in combating cervical cancer.  In the last few years there have been some phenomenal improvements in screening technology, due to the development of low cost DNA tests aimed at detecting the HPV virus. Research suggests that even if women in developing countries had access to just one screening in their life-time, it could reduce their risk of cervical cancer by a third. The development of a rapid, point of care HPV test is welcomed and now requires implementation.

    There was complete agreement among delegates that the only way to effectively prevent, detect and treat the rising numbers of cervical cancers in Africa is to develop broad partnerships of research institutions, international organizations, national governments in developed and developing countries, the pharmaceutical industry and international organizations.  Strong local and international leadership is essential. The relevant organisations and individuals, with funds from government and private donors, must be brought together to develop achievable and sustainable cervical cancer prevention programmes for African countries.

    At the end of the meeting, the delegates signed the Oxford Declaration committing, for the first time, to global cooperation to eradicate cervical cancer in Africa.

    To read the Oxford Declaration, click here.

    To read the “Towards the Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Africa” conference report, click here.

  • Cancer Prevention Code for Ghana

    In the context of a low-resource setting, early detection and prevention are vital to improve survival rates.  There is limited awareness about cancer, particularly in deprived communities in Ghana.  Many fear that cancer has been caused by witchcraft so many people pursue treatment from spiritual healers before seeking conventional medical treatment. Belief in a cure is low, and so abandonment of treatment is high.  Both patients and survivors of cancer face great stigma and shame, and thus people rarely talk about their experiences of cancer.

    AfrOx together with Cancer Society of Ghana has developed a “Cancer Code for Ghana”, which consists of 10 simple steps that people can take to help prevent the development of cancer. We want to disseminate the Code as widely as possible and are supporting the Cancer Society of Ghana on a UICC-funded project to achieve this.

    The purpose of this project is to facilitate national awareness about the prevention of cancer.  The project will publicise a “Cancer Code for Ghana”, which comprises of ten steps that people can take to avoid cancer by making alterations to their lifestyle.  It will also focus on raising awareness about the warning signs of breast, cervical, prostate and paediatric cancer. The aim of the project is to hold 36 workshops at schools, churches and community centres over 18 months, to publicise the cancer code. The secondary aim of this project is to increase the local capacity, skills and abilities to run cancer risk reduction campaigns; and in so doing, to build up a sustainable framework for such initiatives to continue after the funding grant ends.  It is hoped that this project will provide a model that can be replicated to promote the Cancer Code in other African countries in the future.

  • Cancer Awareness - Raising Activities in Ghana

    AfrOx supported the Cancer Society of Ghana (CSG) with a capacity building grant in 2008.  This grant was used to support CSG's work in awareness raising among the general public with regards to cancer related issues - prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and care including palliative care.

    Activities of the Cancer month in 2008 which included health talks and screening for breast and cervical cancer were funded by AfrOx. There were lectures/talks in schools, churches, electronic media (radio & TV) in Accra to educate the public about cancer. In these talks, it was emphasized that about a third of cancers are preventable through healthy living- good nutrition (reduced intake of fats, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables), regular exercises, prevention of excess weight, reduced intake of alcohol and vaccination against common causes of certain cancers such as hepatitis B virus.

    Screening against breast, cervical and prostate cancers were conducted at 8 health facilities and institutions. A total of 1080 persons participated in the CSG screening programme made up of 1007 females and 73 males. Breast disorders were identified in 72 (about 8%) out of 924 females who went through breast examinations. The screening exercise was always preceded by a lecture on cancers in general- types, causes, effects and the need for the public to be well-informed about cancer. Tracts, handbills, posters on breast and prostate cancers were given out to participants in the course of the lecture.