- Professor Anil D’Cruz, President of the Union for International Cancer Control
- Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Control Award is a deep honour.
I thank the Union for International Cancer Control, and the judging panel, for recognizing the efforts that Rwanda has made to prevent and treat cancer.
I also wish to commend the immediate past president of UICC, Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, for her exceptional leadership and commitment to the field of cancer control, and her attention to Africa.
I also congratulate my fellow finalists, from both the policymaker and civil society categories, whose collective achievements inspire us all.
A cancer diagnosis is frightening, in any setting.
However, if there are no accessible treatment options where you live, there is also a sense of hopelessness.
But there is a lot that any country can do to control cancer, no matter its income level.
In Rwanda, the national insurance scheme started to cover annual check-ups for all citizens above age 40.
This has allowed for earlier detection of cancers, and better treatment outcomes.
The top two cancers in Rwanda are breast cancer and cervical cancer.
The structural focus on maternal and child health in Rwanda’s health system has helped us to give these conditions the attention they deserve.
There is now 97% vaccination coverage for HPV, the virus which causes cervical cancer. Regular awareness campaigns teach women how to self-screen for breast abnormalities.
Our region has some of the highest rates of liver cancer in the world, due to untreated hepatitis infections.
In 2018, we began an eradication program for hepatitis C, which screened more than 5 million at-risk people. Those found to be infected received treatment, free of charge.
We also made hepatitis B vaccination routine.
Early detection is only relevant when treatment is available and accessible.
Since 2019, the Rwanda Cancer Center has been operational, offering both radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments.
This means that Rwandans no longer have to travel abroad for many cancer treatments.
Local production of morphine has reduced the suffering of patients in palliative care.
Partnership is essential. The modest gains that Rwanda has made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer have come by working together with others.
Starting in 2012, the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence has offered state-of-the-art treatment to thousands of patients in a rural setting in northern Rwanda.
This facility is the result of an innovative partnership between the Rwandan Health Ministry and Partners in Health, led by Dr Paul Farmer.
And next year, we will inaugurate the Africa Training Center of the Institute for Research on Digestive Cancers (IRCAD), led by Professor Jacques Marescaux, a world leader in minimally-invasive cancer surgery.
We still have a long way to go in the fight to control cancer in Rwanda and Africa, but this award motivates us to aspire to do even more and better in the years ahead.
I thank you for your kind attention.