Creating a Sustainable Approach to Improving Cancer Care in Ghana

By Susan Montgomery - February 03, 2022

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For the past five years, City Cancer Challenge (C/Can) and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) have collaborated to improve the quality of care for people living in underdeveloped cancer systems in a city-focused approach.

“Pathology plays a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” says ASCP Chief Medical Officer Dan Milner, MD, MSc, MBA, FASCP adding that most citizens in the U.S. can access cancer care—though some disparities remain. For many countries, such as Ghana, however, cancer care is not as easily accessible for large portions of the population—though it should be. 

Currently, ASCP is serving as an expert pathology and laboratory medicine consultant for a C/Can project in Kumasi, Ghana, the African nation’s second largest city, with a population of 3.4 million people. Long before C/Can began this project in 2018, ASCP had been working in Ghana to improve cancer diagnostics and access to secondary consultations through telepathology, in collaboration with Ghanaian pathologists and hospitals.

“Ghana has an advanced healthcare system, but even so, cancer care services are limited,” Dr. Milner says. “As one example, private clinics may offer comprehensive breast cancer care, but government facilities may only have basic services.”

For this current initiative, C/Can’s network of local, regional, and global partners and experts, together with health leaders in Kumasi have worked to identify and develop sustainable cancer care solutions to address local health needs. Although cancer solutions in the U.S. and Europe exist for many of the challenges encountered, these must be adapted to the local context and with local culture and organizational structure included. Early on, a needs assessment was developed, which sought data regarding the quality and capacity of existing cancer care services in Kumasi. 

From there, city health leaders guided the creation of a plan to implement eight to 12 cancer care projects in Kumasi that would address gaps in radiotherapy, pathology, palliative care, and cancer registration. C/Can is providing technical assistance to eight of those projects. It is collaborating with local stakeholders to strengthen the area health system’s capacity, leadership, and policies to ensure the project is sustainable and will improve access to quality cancer care and patient outcomes. 

“People occasionally ask why an organization such as ASCP is involved in global projects when there is so much need at home,” Dr. Milner says. “But when you improve the ability of an under-resourced nation’s health system to address cancer diagnostics and care, you are actually improving the health system’s ability to address other diseases as well. By helping under-resourced countries to build up their health systems, you are helping to stabilize and improve that nation’s economy overall. As national economies improve, global travel, trade, business, and tourism are enabled, which further strengthen the economic support for health systems. This is a key principle of economic development that we can leapfrog forward by these types of projects.”

As C/Can enters its fifth year in operations in more than 10 cities, ASCP remains a dedicated partner to examine, discuss, and address laboratory and diagnostic challenges that are identified. By removing these barriers to success along with partners from across the cancer spectrum, C/Can and ASCP are creating example frameworks and “how-to” guides that will enable multiple other cities to achieve the same success.

Read on for more on C/Can and World Cancer Day here

Susan Montgomery

ASCP communications writer