'Cancer killing 1 500Zimbabweans annually'

HARARE - Zimbabwe today, joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Cancer Day amid revelations that at least 1 500 people succumb to the disease each year.

Of that figure, 80 percent present themselves to medical institutions when it is already too late. Cervical cancer accounts for 15 percent of the cancer-related deaths.

Oncologist Anna-Mary Nyakabawo says there are at least 6 000 cancer cases presented each year, with cervical cancer being the most common.

Cancer, which is regarded as a major cause of death worldwide, is a condition that arises when there is abnormal growth of cells.

There are over 100 types of cancers which include lung, prostate, leukaemia, non-Hodgkin, skin cancers among others. But in Zimbabwe, cervical cancer is the most common one.

It is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which medical experts say can be sexually transmitted.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most sexually active men and women will contract the virus at some stage in their lives.

The virus is also said to be common among HIV-positive women. Early symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge that may have mucus with blood or bleeding during sexual intercourse or while inserting the diaphragm which is used for family planning.

Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer include anaemia, prompted by the loss of blood, ongoing pelvic and back pain, as well as urinary problems which come as a result of blockage of the kidneys and ureter.

In some cases, patients may experience the leakage of urine and stool into the vagina.

But in a recent interview with the state media, Nyakabawo said although cervical cancer was the most common of the cancers, it could be managed.

“It can be treated through chemotherapy, radiation or surgery but most women present themselves late,” she said.

In a previous interview with the Daily News, The Cancer Association knowledge manager Tafadzwa Chigariro aired the same sentiments.

He said when detected early, it could be managed, adding that some women contracted the cancer through the insertion of herbs into the vagina to aid child birth or for the purposes of achieving dry sex.

He said women who had unprotected sex with multiple partners were also at risk of contracting the disease.

The seriousness of the problem has prompted government to roll out a project which will see girls between the ages of 9 and 13 being given the HPV vaccine.

The programme, which will be rolled out in Beitbridge and Seke starting this April, is expected to go a long way in preventing cervical cancer.

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