The National Centre of Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine became operational in 1997 through a collaborative effort between the Government of Ghana, acting through the Ministry of Health and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and through the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC).
What gave rise to the project was the recognition of the fact that over 50% of all cancer patients require Radiotherapy at one stage or the other in the course of the disease. In addition 40% of all the cancer cures result directly from the use of Radiotherapy (WHO REPORT).This is particularly true for Ghana recognising the fact that cancer of cervix is the second most common cancer among women, and that, Radiotherapy plays a major role in its management.
The establishment of the centre was therefore in fulfillment of a cherished dream dated as far back as 1960.During that period a cobalt machine was donated by the Canadian Government to be used for medical purposes.However, because of lack of funds to house it, the machine was donated to the Lagos University Hospital in Nigeria.
The hospital is blessed to have such a facility; indeed five per cent of our case load comprises foreigners from other countries in the sub region who do not have this facility.Ghanaians have the luxury of being treated in their own country by fellow Ghanaians.
It is the only operational centre in the country until the recent opening of a second on in Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.Cancer of the cervix makes up 25 per cent of our case load topping the list, followed by cancer of the breast, then head and neck malignancy.
It is sad to note that about 65 per cent of patients are managed with palliative intent because they present rather late.In the early stages of cancer of the cervix, Radiotherapy and Surgery yield the same results. Late presentation of cancer problems is a major challenge in the country.This underscores the need for a National Screening Programme in order to allow early case detection.The MOH/John Hopkins Cervical Cancer Screening Project is therefore a step in the right direction and should be extended country wide.
It is also worth noting that the hospital and indeed the country lacks a cancer registry, for that matter the size of the problem cannot be quantified for cancer to be declared a public health problem. With the increase in life expectancy and changes in lifestyles, we need to brace ourselves to handle an increase in cancer incidence that we will be witnessing in the coming years (WHO report).
Our equipment needs cannot be overemphasized.One of the commonest conditions for which patients are sent abroad for management with hard earned foreign currency is cancer and the reason is usually for Radiotherapy. The commonest condition for which this demand is made is prostate cancer which is the second commonest cancer among men after Hepatoma.By improving our capacity to deliver in terms of equipment provision (3D planning system, Simulations with CT linkage and linear accelerator), this service will be made available not only to those who can afford to travel abroad at their own expense and to individuals for whom the country bears the cost but also the ordinary man.
Future Plans For Improvement
The Centre confines itself primarily to the management of Cancer through the use of ionizing radiation and chemotherapy when necessary. The Centres strategic plans call for the creation of a facility that provides a feeling of hope and a sense of inspiration to all cancer patients.
To this end activities are focused on the following priority areas.
The Administrative Structure
Until the establishment of the Ghana Health Service which placed this centre under Tertiary Health Institutions, the National Centre for Radiotherapy and Nuclear Medicine was a BMC in the scheme of affairs of the Ministry of Health. It has its special building, equipment, staff, budget and administration.
The centre was managed by an eighteen-member board of directors named, the National Radiotherapy Committee which is always headed by the Chairman of the Board of G.A.E.C. Among other things, the Board formulated policies and provided guidance to the internal management committee of the centre. It oversaw development of the centres strategies and approved budget.
Those on secondment comprise three Radiation Oncologists (one on study leave), three nurses, three medical officers all from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, two Medical Physicists from the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, two accounts personnel from the Accountant General Department.
The other categories of personnel were engaged by the National Radiotherapy Committee. These include two Radiation Therapists, Nurses who have resigned from MOH to join the Centre, Technicians, Administrative staff and other supporting staff. With the absorption of the Centre by the Hospital, the doctors, nurses and therapists will no more be on secondment.
The following are some of the pieces of equipment used in the Centre