Dear His Excellency, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo –Addo, President of Republic of Ghana.

I write as the President of Men’s Health Foundation Ghana to resubmit the above proposal which was presented in 2016 to the then Minister of Health Hon. Alex Segbefia. The Proposal was presented to the Minister based on a letter Dated 15th September 2015 from the Office of the President and signed by the then Secretary to the President, Kwesi Quartey copied the Chief of Staff. Our Proposal on the above subject was dated 27th May, 2015 to the former President John Dramani Mahama to consider declaring fathers’ Day as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.

The subject was at the point of implementation and a copy of report was sent to us via mail by Mr. J.Y .Appiah, the then Head of Administration at the Ministry of Health. I therefore write back to your office to reconsider the said subject matter with urgency.

The charity wishes to thank the government for the special cancer policy in the Manifesto on Health issues and we believe this is the perfect  manifesto fulfillment to tell the good people of Ghana your desire to fulfill this mission on special cancer policy.  The Charity is ready to help the government achieve its special cancer policy as promised to the people of Ghana in the Manifesto.

The charity believes that to recognize cancers as a national challenge as promised in the New Patriotic Party’s Manifesto, there is the need to have a national awareness Day and Month celebration. This is the best preventive medicine to save the lives of the people. It also shows the strong political willpower to fight against cancers in the country for the very first time.

The charity writes to you as September marks the global prostate cancer month celebrations as the best month to issue this presidential proclamation of these two subjects. As charity, we know that if Presidential Proclamation is made, Churches, Media, government institutions, corporate institutions and others will help raise awareness, organize free screening programs to help the government policy on special cancer policy and National Cancer Recognition.

Fathers’ Day as National Prostate Health Awareness Day is similar to the country Declaration of ST. Valentine’s Day as National Chocolate Day to help raise awareness.

We have attached a copy of the proposal submitted to the previous government on the said subject, letter directing the charity to present its proposal for consideration at the Health Ministry and the report received from the Ministry of Health By Mr. J.Y.Appiah on the said subject for immediate action.

The charity also writes to your office to consider establishing National Cancer Foundation under your Presidency to help strengthen the fight against cancers in general as part of your cancer policy. We also recommend that cancer patients should be enroll onto the National Livelihood Empowerment Project (LEAP) to ease financial burden on the patients. As charity, we know these kinds of policies are holistic ones which will go a long way to help the government. The charity also recommends that you appoint some key people to advise the government on cancers as part of the special cancer policy.

Men’s Health Foundation Ghana is the National Peak body and Ghana’s leading Men’s charity working with people affected by Prostate Cancer, providing the necessary governmental policies to help strengthen the fight against Prostate Cancer and other Men’s Health related issues. We have a simple mission: To stop Prostate Cancer before its strikes in the black community as the disease is more prone to the black race. The Men’s Health Charity and our Parent body Cancer Voices  Ghana which is a coalition of cancer groups in other areas is ready to help the government succeed in the cancer policy to fulfill the campaign promises on cancers.

His Excellency, There is blight upon this country especially on Men’s Health. Our case for declaring Fathers’ Day as National Prostate Health Awareness Day and September which marks the global Prostate Cancer Awareness Month also as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is simple: Ignoring Prostate Cancer in Ghana won’t beat it… But joining the fight will.

When we made the case, others in the Medical field did not get the concept right. This is only a form of preventive medicine and not curative medicine and we have to stop prostate cancer before its strikes. The truth is that prostate cancer is more prone to the black race and 1 in 4 Black Men are at risk of the disease according to the Prostate Cancer UK.

The case for the declaration of Father’s Day as National Prostate Health Day in Ghana is anchored on the fact that the country appears to have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the whole world, with an estimated number of 921 new cases occurring every year, with 758 of them resulting in death.

Studies have also revealed that while incidence of the disease is 200 out of every 100,000 in Ghana, it is 127 to every 100,000 in Nigeria and 130 per 100,000 in Cameroun. The sub-region is generally recognized as having the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world with Ghana at the epicenter.

There is a concern amongst clinicians that treat prostate cancer and researchers that because it can be labeled as a disease of old men it is not as important. Firstly, younger men can develop prostate cancer, with devastating consequences. That comment still occurs and it is an ageist comment.

In this context it is important to remember that, for the purpose of medical statistics, 75 is considered a ‘normal’ life span, that male life expectancy is now 78 years and that if a decision is even made  to raise the retirement age to 67 has just been announced. Thus prostate cancer is, and will remain, a significant health issue for men of working age.

His Excellency, Size definitely isn’t everything where the prostate is concerned. This little gland, hidden from sight just below the bladder, is only about the size of a walnut. But when it goes rogue, a man’s life can be over.

Surely men and policy makers wouldn’t ignore the prostate if they knew what it could do to them. So why do they? Is it because the gland is invisible and out of sight is out of mind? Or that men don’t want to think about any problem below the belt? Or they don’t believe prostate cancer is a real problem because it doesn’t hit the headlines? Or perhaps the myth has taken hold that prostate cancer is a disease that men die with and not from.

But ask the families of some 800 men who die of it every year in the Ghana and they’ll be quick to tell you another story; that prostate cancer doesn’t go away if you stick your head in the sand; that it’s a silent assassin which all too often takes men out in their prime; that it leaves their plans for retirement in tatters and their families grieving.

His Excellency, The problem came into sharp focus when the results of our two-yearly public survey just out revealed that a shocking 99% of men didn’t know what the prostate did. That lack of awareness provides a clue as to why an aggressive cancer, which begins quietly in the secrecy of the prostate, often with no significant symptoms before its way beyond control, is all too easily missed. And the added danger is that it is so tempting for the decision makers in the health system to bypass prostate cancer because it is hard to spot and even harder to test or screen for. Much easier to park it in the “too difficult” box and focus on the quick wins.

But with well over 17,000 men currently living with it and prevalence increasing each year, ignoring prostate cancer isn’t the answer. Because it is a big problem and getting bigger, prostate cancer should have more, not less, effort put into tackling it. After all, it’s predicted to be the most common cancer of all by 2030, even though it affects only men. At that sort of scale, it should be rocketing towards the top of the priority list for the NHIS and Non Communicable Disease unit.

People expect that anything as serious as cancer will have obvious symptoms which will warn them to get a checkup. But early stage prostate cancer doesn’t usually have any: no visible lumps to look out for, no funny pains to get checked out. You’d think, then, that screening would be the obvious solution. After all, the stats show that men’s survival chances are dramatically better if their cancer is caught early. But, sadly, the current test is too unreliable for population-wide screening. We need something better which not only picks up signs of the disease early but can also differentiate between tumours – the “tigers” that can kill you v the “pussycats” which will never do you any harm.

So it’s a no-brainer that fighting prostate cancer depends on finding a better test. It’s the Holy Grail. Men’s Health Foundation made it top priority for our research investment. But In the meantime, debate about the pros and cons of screening can’t be allowed to distract from more intelligent use of the existing PSA test and other diagnostic tools to target men at high risk, like those over 40, black men, and those with family history of the disease.

His Excellency,  During this year’s fathers’  Day ‘Do it 4 Dads’ for Men’s Health foundation at Akim -Asene in the eastern region- a crusade for awareness of the disease I got talking with lots of men who know prostate cancer up close and personal. I was struck by the profound impact the diagnosis had had on their view of life. Even if they didn’t need significant ongoing treatment and now had a good long term prognosis, they said the experience had jolted things into perspective.

At the KENAMP Lodge, men shared their experiences with the disease.  I heard men talk about making the most of precious time, having more fun, building memories with their families, and doing the things they had always wanted to do. They spoke about the satisfaction they felt from doing things, big and small, which made them and their families proud. They recognized how priceless good health is, and simply couldn’t understand how men would let ignorance, apathy or fear of a simple test or of treatment, get in the way of looking after their health – even though several of them admitted they had done exactly that before they were diagnosed. The very clear message coming from them to other men was not to stick your head in the sand in a misguided attempt to ignore prostate cancer, but to get informed about it for yourself and to join the fight to beat it for everybody.

The men at Akim- Asene agreed straight on a Presidential Proclamation of fathers’ Day as national Prostate Health awareness Day to bring the disease to the doorstep of men and government.

Thank you and hope to hear from you as September brings the disease to the global limelight.

 

Source: Raphael Nyarkotey Obu