There’s a misconception among many people, both lay people and cancer experts, that cancer treatment is very expensive, especially in low and middle income countries and so that expense means it shouldn’t be a priority. But very few studies have actually looked at that specifically in childhood cancer. So what our group, in the context of an upcoming Lancet Oncology commission, actually did was to treat the cancer unit in Ghana as a single intervention. What we wanted to do was figure out what the cost of maintaining the childhood cancer treatment centre in Ghana was and what the cost effectiveness of that intervention, i.e. the treatment unit, was.
In collaboration with several colleagues and with our local partners in Ghana we did figure out the cost using well accepted World Health Organisation criteria, figured out that indeed, as we suspected, that the cost of maintaining that centre actually is very cost effective by those traditional criteria which completely goes against, again, that misconception that most people have.
So a clear message for other countries?
Yes. Those kinds of data are helpful in the broad international sense to dispel those misconceptions but they are also very useful potentially in the local context as well. For example, our Ghanaian partners are hoping to use this data to convince the Ghanaian Ministry of Health to, for example, potentially include childhood cancer treatment in their universal healthcare plans. So there’s this fairly simple data to collect, it takes a little bit of time but it’s not complicated, so other jurisdictions may well be interested in doing the same in their respective settings to inform policy or advocacy within their jurisdictions.