Sub-Saharan Africa’s cancer burden is significant and growing: in 2012, there were an estimated 626,400 new cases and 447,700 cancer deaths. Based on population aging alone, annual cancer deaths are projected to increase dramatically by 2030 to 984,000.
Cancer here is characterized by late diagnosis, limited access to treatment and poor patient outcomes. Due to high levels of stigma surrounding cancer, a lack of symptom awareness, limited access to diagnostic services and poorly functioning referral systems, more than 80% of patients seeking treatment are already in the advanced stages of the disease – fewer than 10% receive pain relief, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
As a result, cancer is twice as lethal in Sub-Saharan Africa as it is in the US; although common cancers, such as cervical and breast cancer are quite treatable in the early stages, the five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer in The Gambia
is only 12% (compared with 90% in the US).
Cancer care in Sub-Saharan Africa is marred by limited availability of basic treatment. While access to the latest biomedical advancements may be idealistic, the disparity in access to basic cancer care is unacceptable and reversible.
To support practitioners in the region, the NCCN collaborated with the African Cancer Coalition, to adapt the NCCN Guidelines® and NCCN Framework and to create the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for Sub-Saharan Africa. The collaboration also includes the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and IBM.
The African Cancer Coalition comprises oncologists from Sub-Saharan Africa who are working together to improve access to high-quality cancer treatment. Co-chaired by Honourable Minister Isaac Adewole, Nigeria’s Health Minister, and Dr. Jackson Orem, Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, the Coalition consists of more than 100 oncologists and other multidisciplinary cancer care physicians from over 30 hospitals, Universities, and Ministries of Health in 13 Sub-Saharan African countries. This initiative spans national borders in Africa and spans continents in a collaborative effort.
The knowledge that the African Cancer Coalition representatives bring to the table is extensive and invaluable. They know the challenges and many solutions to delivering cancer care in resource-constrained environments. Any success in the effort to improve
oncology care in Africa is largely thanks to the dedication and participation of NCCN’s African colleagues.
In 2019, the African Cancer Coalition, NCCN, ACS, CHAI, and IBM, joined together to form Allied Against Cancer. This coalition is leveraging the strengths of each organization to partner with and empower the African oncology community to deliver high-quality cancer care, while continually seeking ways to advance health system capacity and improve access for all patients.
The New York Times has published an article about this collaboration: “As Cancer Tears Through Africa, Drug Makers Draw Up a Battle Plan”