First Lady Jeannette Kagame calls on leaders from around the world to address the increasing prevalence of cancer

By Esther Muhozi
On 18 October 2023 at 02:34

First Lady Jeannette Kagame, on October 16, spoke at the World Leaders’ Cancer Summit, where she engaged with a diverse group of participants, including health professionals, policy experts, influencers, researchers, and advocates. The summit aimed to explore strategies for advancing global efforts in the fight against cancer.

She has urged global leaders to shun complacency in the fight against rising cancer incidences, but rather confront healthcare systems’ failure in providing equitable treatment.

Mrs. Jeannette Kagame also observed that incidence and survival disparities depict the world as one that considers cancer screening, accurate diagnostics and access to advanced care, as privileges of a select few, noting that no race, gender, or economic status should ever own the exclusive right to basic human empathy, whether in policy or in medicine.

“We must confront the dynamics behind the failures of our healthcare systems that perpetuate such inequalities,” she said.

In 2020, about 40 percent (equivalent to four million) of cancer-related deaths could have been avoided, by implementing effective cancer prevention strategies, which are attainable across all continents, including in low-income countries.

Mrs. Kagame encouraged leaders to reflect on the toll in human lives that must be endured before global cooperation can ultimately triumph over cancer. This victory may necessitate various measures, such as universal healthcare access, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, widespread screening programs, regulated pricing for cancer treatments, increased funding for research, and more equitable access to clinical trials.

She emphasized that Rwanda firmly believes in providing cancer care to all, regardless of location, gender, age, or financial means. As an example, she highlighted the achievement of a 93 percent vaccination rate among young girls against cervical cancer since the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine in 2011.

The efforts that were followed by the establishment of Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence which provides integrated diagnostic, therapeutic, and palliative care services to cancer patients from Rwanda and beyond, as well as the Rwanda Cancer Center at the Military Hospital that offers comprehensive care including diagnosis, surgical oncology, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Mentioning the Newly Launched IRCAD Africa the First Lady said, it is poised to become Africa’s largest hub for medical training and research in minimally invasive surgery and digestive cancer research and thus, propelling medical research in Africa to new heights.

Mrs. Kagame encouraged leaders to reflect on the toll in human lives that must be endured before global cooperation can ultimately triumph over cancer.