Mrs Kagame was speaking Tuesday in the 2017 African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) Conference in Kigali.
The conference was organized under the theme ‘Cancer in Africa: Making Strides, Creating Solutions’
Frist Lady said that fighting cancer begins with the advocacy and mobilising public-private support.
“It also requires strengthening along the cancer care continuum: raising awareness, educating, conducting prevention interventions, having structures for early diagnosis, and improving access to care and treatment” she said.
“We will have more chances to win the fight against cancer if we also promote the need for well-trained, skilled and dedicated workforce. One that strives to conduct impactful research, treats with compassion and care, and finds solutions customized to our population’s needs” she added.
Mrs. Kagame said that Cancer does not discriminate against age, gender, religion, neither social status.
“In Rwanda, we have also sadly witnessed how younger, and older members of our communities, have been affected by the diverse forms this disease can take” she said.
She said in Rwanda, like in many other nations whose populations have access to cancer screenings, incidences of cancer diagnoses are becoming known. She said that men are now diagnosed with prostate cancer; and children are faced with the overwhelming burden to fight leukaemia and kidney cancer, even at a tender age.
For women, she said, breast and cervical cancers are the top two cancers currently hurting mothers and sisters.
“While it is encouraging to know that years of research have demonstrated that approximately one third of cancer cases can be prevented, we, as concerned global citizens, now have the duty to put in place more effective, and sustainable systems of prevention” she said.
“As our experience teaches us that cancer can be caused by a variety of factors, other than a specific genetic makeup, we also have to continue to carefully assess those other causes that are environmental, and influenced by our lifestyles. This assessment would help us teach each other, how to prevent those different forms of cancers, that have increased through the years” she urged.
She said too many lives are still lost due to the lack of early and regular screenings, along with the lack of effective knowledge dissemination on what should be done, to greatly reduce chances of developing cancer
In 2011, a partnership between the Government of Rwanda, and various stakeholders, helped bring to life the Butaro Hospital and its Cancer Centre of Excellence, which officially opened in 2012.
“With this Cancer Centre came a new opportunity to have a better chance at beating cancer, for thousands of individuals from Rwanda, and beyond” she said.
With its three wards, dedicated to children, women and men, Butaro Hospital is able to screen, diagnose, provide patient follow-up, and palliative care, she said
Offering surgery and chemotherapy, Butaro Hospital have managed to treat up to 6,000 cancer sufferers to date, and joined other general hospitals fighting cancer throughout the country, by conducting more than 1,000 tests per year.
Impacts of AORTIC
AORTIChas already shown progress towards prioritising oncology training for health workers and research on cancer prevalence, both of which are well stipulated in the mandate of the organisation.
“It is now upon us to devise strategies to capitalize on the progress made, by incorporating it within our different existing structures, and if needed, by establishing new ones, able to implement what is required for the holistic wellbeing of our communities,” she said
She said that the aim is to ensure that the fight against cancer continues positively ahead, as it will be done through the finalisation of a radiotherapy centre at the Rwanda Military Hospital.
Beginning next year, she said the radiotherapy centre, will provide cancer patients with a final, integral link within comprehensive cancer care and treatment, through radiotherapy services.
“As we remember that beyond the statistics and treatment trials, we are dealing with a mother, a father, a sibling, or a child, whose life will never again be the same after their diagnosis, we must pledge to never stop educating our populations about the importance of living healthy lifestyles, which include regular medical check-ups so our health systems, can help our communities before it is too late,” she urged participants.