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Cancer a Public Health Concern in Africa's Developing Countries

Medical experts say cervical cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa. A majority die of ignorance. Less than one percent of women are scanned for the disease. Free vaccination campaigns for 9 to 13 years old girls are ongoing.

Medical doctors from Chad, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic say the impact of chronic diseases such as cancer is steadily growing in many low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Ndikum Donald, a cancer expert working in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, said early detection is essential to improving chances for recovery.

"Low income countries are the most affected simply because in the developed countries they have an organized program, regular programs where they screen women every three to five years. So in countries where the screening programs are developed, the cancer is well controlled," said Donald.

Professor Anderson Doh of Cameroon's cancer committee said in his country alone they have been detecting 14,000 cases of cancer each year, and 4,000 are cancers of the cervix. He said most are reported in middle-aged women and the patients suffer longer and die sooner than those in high-income countries.

"The numbers are increasing partly because the population is increasing in number, but also the lifestyle that is changing is contributing to this. Take smoking for instance. If you take cancer of the cervix, cancer of the breast even the prostate now, we find even some young men who came to ask for help at an early age,” said Doh.

Professor Doh said governments in Sub-Saharan countries should act quickly. He said all women, regardless of economic status or geographic location, should have access to accurate, affordable cervical cancer screenings. He urged people to live healthier lives as a means of preventing the disease.

"We have solutions to them. Prevention, primary prevention by avoiding smoking, eating roughly. A square meal should have vegetables once in a while, fruits and all that. Obesity is a problem and this obesity predisposes us to certain cancers," advised Doh.

Cancer of the cervix is the leading cause of cancer-related death for women in the countries which have this month organized screening for girl children from 9 to 13 years old. Doh said the campaign is free.

"The vaccine is free. There are two types of vaccines in the market. Gardasil and Cervarix. We chose Gardasil as our first," said Doh.

Health experts say cervical cancer is preventable, but each year approximately 80 percent of cancer related deaths occur in developing countries, where less than one percent of women have been screened for the disease.