Cancer Programme

Breast cancer can be detected early and treated effectively. Breast health awareness programs can increase women's understanding of their risks and of the signs and symptoms that need prompt medical attention. Organised breast cancer screening programs can detect cancers at earlier stage. Most women diagnosed with early stage disease (I and II) have a good prognosis, with overall 5-year survival rates of 80-90%.

  • Cancer is a leading non-communicable cause of death in Africa. In 2012, cancer accounted for 1.3 million deaths, 47% of which occurred in Africa
  • The number of cancer deaths in the Africa is projected to increase from 1.3 million to 2.1 million between 2012 and 2030.
  • About a third of all cancer cases could be prevented by avoiding key risk factors. These include tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
  • Vaccination and screening programmes are effective interventions to reduce the burden of specific types of cancer.
  • Many cancers have a high chance of cure if detected early and treated adequately.

The challenge is to mount and sustain effective breast cancer awareness and screening programs, with timely access to appropriate treatment and reduced barriers to care, especially in limited resource settings.

Learn more about breast cancer program planning and the scientific evidence about breast cancer risk factors and early detection strategies in this series of breast cancer knowledge summaries.


Prevention: Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Prevention

Learn more about the preventive approaches to breast cancer control. This summary provides information on prophylactic medications, prophylactic surgery and lifestyle modifications for breast cancer prevention. Information on health professional training and individual risk assessments and counselling is also provided.


Early Detection: Breast Health Awareness and Early Detection Strategies

Detecting breast cancer early improves survival, lowers morbidity and reduces the cost of care. Learn about the major breast cancer early detection strategies in this knowledge summary, including breast cancer education and awareness, and breast self-detection and clinical breast exams (CBE).



Leukemias and brain and central nervous system cancers are the most common types of childhood cancers. Leuke­mia accounts for about 1/3 of cases and acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common leukemia. Brain tumors, gliomas and medulloblastomas, are the next common type of childhood cancer, with other solid tumors such as neuroblastomas, Wilms tumors, and sarcomas such as rhabdomyosarcoma and osteosarcoma, being less common.

Cancer in children is rare, yet, each year more than 27,000 children under 14 years of age are diagno­sed with a cancer and an estimated 10,000 children will die from the disease.

The causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown, but effective treatments are available.



Significant advances in treatment have led to high survival rates of childhood cancer, approaching 80%.

However, this survival rate is significantly lower for children living in low resource settings, where approximately one in two children diagnosed with cancer will die.

One of the greatest barriers to better childhood cancer survival in Africa is abandonment of treatment, due to high cost as well as limited availability of treatment.

This disparity is due to health system challenges such as limited access to early detection and effective treatment and care, where childhood cancer is often detected too late and appropriate treatment is seldom available or affor­dable.

One of the greatest barriers to better childhood cancer survival in Africa is abandonment of treatment, due to high cost as well as limited availability of treatment



Although the signs and symptoms depend on the type of cancer and location within the body, at least 85% of childhood cancer is associated with the following warning signs below. These signs can be detected early by trained primary health care providers:

» Unusual abdominal mass or swelling

» Prolonged and unexplained fever

» Pallor, loss of energy and rapid weight loss

» Unexplained and prolonged pain and headaches, often with vomiting

» Easy bruises and unexplained bleeding

» Sudden change in balance or behaviour

» Swollen head

» White glow in the eye



AHO is collaborating with partners to raise awareness of the problem of childhood cancer and support health providers to improve survival for children with cancers. This includes working with professional associations such as the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) and the African Association of Paediatric Oncologists (AAPO) in developing clinical protocols and standards of care, as well as training primary health care providers in early detection.

Within AHO’s Strategy for Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) and in collaboration with All Children Matters, a training module on childhood cancers has been created for use by primary care physicians. By inte­grating diagnosis and treatment of childhood illnesses, prevention measures, and health promotion into a single evaluation sequence, IMCI reduces missed opportunities for early detection and treatment of childhood cancer and improving quality and efficiency at the first level of care.