The First Lady delivered the message yesterday on 4th February 2021 at the occasion of celebrating the World Cancer Day under the theme ’I Am and I Will.’
World Cancer Day is an opportunity to recognize global commitment to actions that will lead to impacting progress in reducing the global impact of cancer and create a cancer-free world.
It is a global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of a group of cells in the body. It can occur at any age and if not detected at the right time and is not treated, it can increase the risk of death.
The First Lady has reminisced on the adverse impact of cancer and called for proactive measures to prevent it.
"Let us remember that behind global cancer statistics is a mother, a father, a sibling or a child, whose life will never be the same again after their diagnosis,” she said.
“On this World Cancer Day, let us pledge to continue educating our people about the importance of living healthy lifestyles, which include regular medical checkups, in order for our communities to receive the necessary treatment in time,” added Jeannette Kagame.
The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that cancer over 9.6 million died of cancer in 2018.
Recent studies estimate about one out of six people worldwide died from cancer that’s more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Hence, to raise the awareness of cancer and encourage its prevention, World Cancer Day is observed annually on February 4 as an international event.
Globally, cancer is among the leading causes of death, claiming over 70% of its victims in low- and middle-income countries, where prevention and treatment remain limited. In 2018, estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) indicate the incidence in Rwanda to be 10,704 new cancer diagnoses, 4,520 cases among men and 6,184 cases among women were registered and annual mortality rates stood at 7,662. In addition, 50% to 60% of all cancer patients require radiotherapy in the course of their treatment.
The increasing cancer burden in Rwanda, and the limited accessibility of the general population to treatment, required the Government of Rwanda to act.
As per last year’s figures, WHO reported that less than 10% of the population in need was able to access treatment and about USD 1 million was spent on international transfers for radiotherapy treatment in Rwanda in four years.
On World Cancer Day celebration last year, Rwanda inaugurated the up to date Cancer Centre equipped with Radiotherapy. President Paul Kagame spoke on the important role the new centre will play in the lives of patients living with cancer, “now, many more Rwandans will be able to get the care they need with their families close by”, he said.
The Government of Rwanda embarked on a journey to decrease the burden of disease through prevention, early detection, treatment, and care interventions. In 2016, the idea for a modern radiotherapy cancer centre, called Rwanda Cancer Centre (RCC), was established at Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH) in Kanombe as the first step in ultimately providing a full-service cancer centre. At the time, RMH already had advanced and existing cancer services in place and the human resource skills required to run the radiotherapy.
The facility launched last year complemented existing prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services including a 20-bed chemotherapy unit already in operation. In addition, the centre will allow full scale up of screening and early detection for cancers such as cervical, breast, and those related to hepatitis C virus.
Rwanda’s future plans indicate further diagnostic and inpatient services to be gradually added in order to provide comprehensive cancer treatment and palliative care to those with late state diagnosis. In addition, specialists are currently being trained in order to provide the necessary skill level.
The launch date coincided with the official launch of the first National Cancer Control Plan, the National Cancer Registry, and the National Cancer Management guidelines, three key milestones for the success of the cancer centre. The implementation of the 2020-2024 National Cancer Control Plan is intended to reduce cancer mortality and morbidity nationwide.