BOURNEMOUTH, United Kingdom — Cancer in Ethiopia has recently become a rising public health concern. With an increase in cancer diagnosis and increased mortality rates, the Ethiopian government is currently addressing the situation and implementing plans to find a solution.
A 2019 study carried out a cross-sectional analysis regarding breast cancer in northern Ethiopia and revealed the importance of research regarding cancer in Ethiopia when pushing toward a necessary solution. The University of Gondar Hospital Cancer Center conducted the study intending to gain a greater understanding of the statistics of breast cancer in northern Ethiopia and to suggest actions that the government could implement to improve these statistics.
A key finding in the study at Gober Hospital was the identification of when cancer patients had been diagnosed. The study found that the percentage of diagnosis at stages four and five was 85%. The suggested reasoning for this was the lack of cancer awareness in Ethiopia and the inaccessibility to multimodality cancer treatment. The diagnosis of cancer at more advanced stages means the mortality rate is higher; the average survival probability in Ethiopia was 12 months which was significantly lower when drawing comparisons to Western countries. Overall, the study attributed these statistics to late-stage diagnosis and limited access to cancer treatment.
In January 2015, Gondar University Hospital introduced the region’s first cancer treatment center. The cancer center is made up of ten outpatient beds as well as an inpatient care unit. The team operating the center consists of eight nurses, two general practitioners and one senior oncologist resident. As the center was set up in partnership with the BEZA Association in Switzerland, a senior oncologist from Switzerland carries out regular visits to the center. While the establishment of this center proves crucial to the improvement of cancer in Ethiopia, there are still problems that the facility faces. For example, among certain tests not available, radiotherapy treatment is not available at the care center as well. This meant that patients who require radiotherapy for their cancer treatment must seek the treatment in Anbessa Hospital; more than 600 kilometers away in Addis Ababa.
This study is an important body of research that addresses the concern towards cancer in Ethiopia, whilst also initiating the fight for a solution.
The Fight for a Solution
The Mathiuwos Wondu Ye – Ethiopia Cancer Society (MWECS) established itself in 2004 and has played a significant role in improving the control of cancer in Ethiopia. The organization is committed to improving the national control of cancer and aims to support individuals with the disease.
With these aims, MWECS has funded a full-time job role that works for the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in Ethiopia as a Technical Advisor. Due to this, the FMoH has focused more on cancer in the country and developed a National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP). This plan has a budget of more than $90 million and began in 2016.
This was a significant step in the control of cancer in Ethiopia and a great achievement for the country as it is one of the first government-approved National Cancer Control Plans of its kind in Africa.
The plan’s main aims are to promote cancer prevention and increase rates of early detection. The primary intervention of this plan includes tobacco control and the promotion of healthy eating as well as the promotion of being aware of symptoms that can lead to testing and thus an early diagnosis.
Along with these interventions, for the first time, cancer treatment is now accessible in Ethiopia on a regional scale with five cancer centers having been established meaning treatments, including radiotherapy, are now widely available.
Cancer in Ethiopia remains an issue that requires ongoing research, attention and funding. While MWECS works hard with the Federal Ministry of Health in Ethiopia, the country is heading towards a hopeful future regarding early detection and successful treatment of cancer.
– Poppy Harris