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Teachers have highest cancer prevalence as GNAT Cancer Foundation targets GH₵17.2m annual intervention

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A female teacher teaching science to a classroom of students at a primary school, Ghana, West Africa, Africa

By Ernest Bako WUBONTO

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has raised concerns about the high prevalence of cancer cases among teachers in the country as it seeks to raise GH¢17.2million annually to support treatment costs for members.

According to GNAT, there has been a significant increase in the number of teachers diagnosed with various forms of cancer – including breast cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, lung cancer, liver cancer and colorectal cancer among others over the past few years.

Speaking at the press launch of GNAT Cancer Foundation, an initiative to raise funds for this cause, General Secretary-GNAT, Thomas Tanko Musah, indicated that cancer remains one of the most challenging health issues of the times. The rising incidence of cancer among teachers has brought immense emotional and financial strain. The high cost of treatment is often insurmountable, leaving many without the care they need.

This trend, he said, can be attributed to poor working conditions and the environment teachers are exposed to in many schools across the country. However, the mother organisation is determined to provide needed support.

“Health is the foundation on which every human endeavour stands. To improve teachers’ productivity, their health concerns must be taken seriously and addressed adequately. GNAT represents over 260,000 educators whose dedication underpins the nation’s educational system. Ensuring the health and welfare of these educators is paramount,” he said.

Dr. Clement Edusa, CEO-Sweden Ghana Medical Centre (SGMC), highlighted that the Global Cancer Observatory (GCO) 2022 report indicated that Ghana is estimated to record about 27,000 new cancer cases annually; but unfortunately, because the country has no synchronised central archive to collaborate data, that cannot be verified – but the concern raised by teachers is not far-fetched when individual hospital registers are compiled.

He emphasised that cancer is curable when detected at the first or second stage, but anything beyond that can only be managed to prolong the life span of the person, therefore sensitization and regular screening is important to mitigate the menace.

He therefore called for comprehensive cancer screening and early detection programmes to be made available for all teachers, as well as provision of better medical support and insurance.

GNAT Cancer Foundation

The GNAT Cancer Foundation (GCF) launched in partnership with the Sweden Ghana Medical Centre (SGMC), an ultramodern facility specialized in the treatment of cancer in Accra, is aimed at supporting preventive education, treatment and management of cancer cases among GNAT members and their eligible family members.

Board Chair of GCF, Thomas Armstrong Asante, highlighted that the foundation is tasked to lead cancer prevention public education, raise funds and ensure its effective management to support cancer treatment and management for GNAT members and their families among others.

“The Foundation seeks to carry out its mandate of ensuring a stress-free cancer treatment and management for over 260,000 GNAT members. With the establishment of GCF, we now have a full-fledged non-profit organisation, mandated to oversee the prudent administration of cancer care for our members.

“Our emphasis is on ‘sustainability’ because cancer treatment and management are financially draining. Protecting, saving and serving our teachers from cancer requires substantial resources and investments,” he said.

Beyond GCF’s mission is to support education, treatment and management of cancer cases among GNAT members, the Foundation is also committed to leading a sustainable fight against cancer in Ghana.

Cost of Cancer Treatment

Dr. Edusa explained that the current average cost of treating and managing one cancer case ranges from GH¢1,000 to GH¢60,000 every three weeks, which many teachers in Ghana cannot afford.

The expensive nature of cancer treatment means an individual cannot afford it alone, especially a teacher in Ghana with a meagre salary. Through the GNAT self-help initiative, members will contribute GH₵5 monthly to the fund – but that will still not be enough.

Therefore, the GNAT board is calling on corporate Ghana and benevolent support to raise about GH¢17.2million annually to sustain the programme.

“Corporate organisations and philanthropic entities can support us by directly sending funds to the Foundation’s bank accounts or through other donation channels. Your contributions will directly impact cancer prevention, treatment and management for our members,” the Board Chair stated.

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