Govt recognises 'alternative' cancer medicine

HARARE - Government has bowed to popular pressure and decreed that the State backed traditional complementary cancer medicine, pending an independent investigation of whether or not they work.

This comes in the wake of herbalists claiming an 80 percent success rate in curing cancer, against a 2 percent success rate by the medical side.

Yet supporters of evidence-based medicine fear the process will confer credibility on dubious treatments.

Permanent secretary in the Health and Child Care minister Gerald Gwinji said yesterday they recognise indigenous knowledge systems.

“We have a Directorate of Traditional Medicine within the ministry of Health and Child Care, attesting to the value our government attaches to indigenous knowledge systems,” he said.

“The challenge however, comes in proving the effectiveness of some of the interventions thereof.

“By its nature, traditional practice is based in secrecy, making it difficult to get the opportunity to repeat the same intervention under a controlled measured environment to validate the claims.”

Zimbabwe has lots of registered complementary practitioners, practising homeopathy, herbal and traditional treatments, anthroposophy medicine — which among other techniques uses mistletoe to treat cancer and neural therapy, which is based on injecting local anaesthetics near nerve centres.

This comes as herbalist Newton Mudzingwa successfully cured a Murambinda man plagued with Kaposi Sarcoma cancer over the past eight years.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals consultant clinical oncologist Anna Mary Nyakabau questioned whether herbalists claiming to cure cancer meet objective measures of efficacy linked to an evidence-based evaluation.

“They are claiming success in terms of what, relieving pain, has the lump gone, or what? Ask them to elaborate,” she said.

“In most cases, cancer cannot be cured through one method, it’s usually a combination. It is a complex disease which needs a number of treatments.”

For men and women who were put on chemotherapy and radiation with a variety of cancer types, the risk of dying from those cancers within five years was 98 percent, yet those who underwent herbal treatment it was 20 percent, researchers found.

Comments (3)

In Gokwe South, under chief Mkoka, there is a young lady who has treated a number of people suffering from cancer using traditional herbs.

Titus - 17 June 2016

Titus share the details if you have her contact information

Lee - 17 June 2016

The article comments on an imprtant fact: yes, there might be effective treatment for cancer "out there", but it leaves out the complecated path from an effective "traditional -or alternative- medicine" to its use in hospital -or biomedical- settings, which is a path dispupted by power-imbalances not only between "indigenous healing knowledge" and "biomedical and pharmacological knowledge" but also between the global North and the global South". Why does indigenous knowledge need justification and validation through "evidence based evaluation"? Who is evaluating what? However, maybe recognition by governments are first steps towards new systems of "evaluation" of already functioning indigenous (healing) knowledge systems? Or at least an attempt to accept and integrate healing knowledge systems beyond the biomedical paradigm.

Britta - 23 June 2016

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