Cancer In Africa || Your Health is Your Wealth

January 18, 2016
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Cancer In Africa: Your Health is Your Wealth.


If you were to lose your health, what else can you do? Nothing. You will have lost the only wealth you have to create more wealth. Here There is no doubt that your health is your wealth. The challenge is that nowadays, we have many poorly people traversed with the plague of sexually transmitted diseases, and are also getting non-communicable diseases (or NCDs). Since the 1990s WHO noted the resurgence of interest in cancer incidence in Africa, and data from cancer registries from Sub-Saharan Africa have been published which show that cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality in Africa, beaten only by infectious and parasitic diseases, HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, and maternal and perinatal causes and closely followed by Cardiovascular diseases and Injuries/ violence. Just like AIDS, cancer diagnosis should not be tantamount to a death sentence. Cancer kills more people globally than HIV/Aids, TB and malaria, and in Africa it is becoming a growing health burden. There is hope for Africa. Just like AIDS, cancer diagnosis should not be tantamount to a death sentence.


The dramatic changes in our lifestyles (to sedentary jobs and activities), increasing urbanization, and aging populations are projected to double the incidence of cancer in Africa in the few decades. Diet (by levels of income and economic status of the country one lives in) has been identified as the single and biggest reason for cancer getting out of control. These are no longer exclusively problems associated with the well-off. Health data analytics project that in the next 4 or so years (by 2020), there are likely to be 16 million new cases of cancer every year, 70% of which will be in developing countries. NCDs, are no longer diseases of affluence”. Worldwide, about 75% of deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries most of which are in Africa. We are now eating all sorts of manufactured and processed foods whose natural state is altered both in production (manufacture or in preparation).

Key facts About Cancer (By WHO)

  • Cancers figure among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012.

  • The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.

  • Among men, the 5 most common sites of cancer diagnosed in 2012 were lung, prostate, colorectum, stomach, and liver cancer.

  • Among women the 5 most common sites diagnosed were breast, colorectum, lung, cervix, and stomach cancer.

  • Around one third of cancer deaths are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use.

  • Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing around 20% of global cancer deaths and around 70% of global lung cancer deaths.

  • Cancer causing viral infections such as HBV/HCV and HPV are responsible for up to 20% of cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries.

  • More than 60% of world’s total new annual cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These regions account for 70% of the world’s cancer deaths.

  • It is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next 2 decades.


These NCDs are silent killers with insidious debilitating complications and premature deaths. The rise of NCDs also means the rise of the costs of medical care as most of these are very expensive. In 2008 WHO reported that high income countries had more than double the rate (incidence) of all cancers combined of low income countries. High income countries had approximately ten times the rate of prostate cancer incidence of the lower middle income countries. For breast cancer, incidence rates rose rapidly with level of country income.


Africa is in trouble! Most of the cancers (30-40%) are caused by infections such as hepatitis B and C viruses and human papilloma virus which cause liver cancer and cervical cancer, respectively. This is slightly higher than the global infection-related cancers which account for 22%. Our health systems are not ready to deal with the complexities of Cancer. A recent publication by World Bank noted that, when one walks through cancer wards of public sector hospitals in Africa, the scenes are reminiscent of the battle to get AIDS treatment under way in the early 2000s. Hospital beds once filled with AIDS patients are occupied by those afflicted with cancers and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). From my knowledge of Africa’s health systems, patients travel long distances, making huge financial sacrifices, and often ending up on waiting lists in which while they wait, they end up reaching advanced stage of the disease with slim survival prospects. After all, the majority of African countries have a handful of cancer specialists (i.e., oncologists, radiotherapists and pathologists), and access to costly medications, technologies and diagnostics is a major bottleneck. Programs to detect and diagnose cancer early are still at a nascent stage. While the health system is necessary for care and treatment, I know there are many ways to prevent and indeed reduce ever being diagnosed with cancer! Clinical healthcare as an option is rather down this river called “disease management” – by the time we diagnose its often late and treatment outcomes at best poor.

Yet, there is hope for the hopeless continent and its people over cancer. The situation is not all doom and gloom. Yes, our situation in Africa may be dire with some places having an ill-prepared health system that is poorly financed, but we also have a solution to this health challenge. We must realize that for long we have been sold a lie and lived in deceptions which are now killing us. Our people are perishing sue to a lack of knowledge and an awareness. While cancer vaccines have been efficacious and have been dubbed the “the silver lining in these grim numbers” yet there is a great opportunity to intervene before the onset of cancer with lifestyle changes that will eradicate cancer without the toxic complications caused my medicines. The solution for Africa to this problem does not lay in having the capacity of public and private sector facilities in Africa to provide treatment or meeting the demand for these specialized services through public and private facilities. Upstream, at the source of the problem stands a number of factors, some more critical than other, that are sweeping people into this river of disease. Our health system stands down stream trying to salvage a dire situation of clinical diagnosed cancer patients and congesting our health facilities. Even if we reach universal access to all who need the medical services, without addressing the fundamentals of disease prevention and adopting health promoting lifestyle changes, we shall not move out of the quagmire we are in.


As a health-supporting ministry, MelVee Video Productions urges all citizens of Africa and its health experts who work in Africa to consider sharing this Health is Wealth Series with their community members, with your patients and consider the health tips provided therein as new priorities for lifestyle changes aimed at preventing cancer. We recently recorded an health expect sharing invaluable advise and tips on preventing cancer. The cost is close to zero and yet the benefits are out of this world. For those with reception areas with video playing options, we encourage you to play these messages to your patients during health talks. We also encourage you to educate and empower your patients to access early prognosis and diagnosis, and support access to cost-effective cancer interventions. While we encourage our scientists to further research and bring in more investments into cancer treatment, we exhort them to see prevention as better and highly cost-effective than cure. Lifestyle changes in diet and nutrition is a single and biggest need to save our people from this scourge. Oh yes, prevention is better than cure. We know what can save our people from this debilitating and dreaded disease.


Take time to watch this 5 minute clip and be enlightened at

For more Health is Wealth videos, check this series out at:

Melusi Ndhlalambi,

MelVee Video Productions

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