Cancer deaths on the rise

HARARE - The national death toll from cancer is rising sharply, forcing authorities to scale up cancer screening in both healthy and high-risk populations in order to tame the scourge.

Latest statistics from the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry indicate that a total of 7 018 new cancer cases were recorded in 2014, these comprised 2 981 males and 4 037 females.

A total of 252 childhood cancers, consisting of 147 boys and 105 girls, were registered in the same year.

Cancer-related deaths recorded in 2014 for Harare were 2 474.

A total of 3 519 new cancer cases were recorded among Zimbabweans in 2009, comprising 1 427 (40,6 percent) males and 2 092 (59,4 percent) females.

Cancer mortality in Zimbabwe is high mainly due to late presentation of disease, intercurrent disease including HIV and limited access to early detection and treatment services.

As the disease spikes in a country struggling to treat an illness driven by Western lifestyles that has claimed several high profile personalities in recent days, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said screening offers the opportunity to detect cancer early and with an increased opportunity for treatment and curative intent.

He said the first critical step in the management of cancer is to establish the diagnosis based on pathological examination.

Pathology and laboratory medicine services are essential to accurately analyse and interpret patient samples, thereby guiding the diagnosis, treatment and management of the patient.

“What we think we are lacking is that people need to come for early diagnosis, we need to do more programmes to educate people, when they feel something on their bodies or anything suspicious, they need to come and report,” Parirenyatwa told the Daily News on Sunday.

“But essentially now, we have cancer treatment at Parirenyatwa and Mpilo (hospitals), we hope that we can decentralise it. Cancer drugs are expensive but I think that government is now alert to the issue of cancer.”

According to the Health and Child Care ministry, radiotherapy costs between $3 000 and $4 000 for a whole session. Chemotherapy costs between $100 and $1 000 per cycle, depending on the stage the cancer is, and a cancer patient may need an up to 12 cycles.

This comes as government has put on hold plans to introduce a cancer levy as it fears an introduction of additional taxes might burden the heavily-taxed workers.

Parirenyatwa said government will divert part of the Aids Levy to bankroll cancer treatment.

Aids Levy, introduced in January 2000, is collected through a Parliament special tax act, which requires formal employers and their employees to contribute three per cent of their income.

The recent spike in the number of cancer deaths has alarmed doctors.

Over the past month, liberation stalwart and musician Dick Chingaira, aka Cde Chinx, 61, footballer Edzai Kusinauyo, 42, and Daily News entertainment writer Sharon Muguwu, 28, lost the battle against cancer.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader and President Robert Mugabe’s chief rival for the last 17 years, Morgan Tsvangirai, has openly disclosed that he has been diagnosed with cancer of the colon and is undergoing treatment in neighbouring South Africa.

His deputy Thokozani Khupe is a cancer survivor.

She told the Daily News on Sunday: “The situation is getting worse these days, if it’s not diagnosed early. Statistics show that in Africa most of the cases are diagnosed when they are at an advanced stage, stage three and four, at this time, little can be done.

“If you look at Zimbabwe right now, there are two public institutions offering cancer treatment facilities and these are very few, there is just Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.

“It becomes difficult for someone in Binga or Hwange or other places to travel to Bulawayo for screening or treatment. Or have someone travel all the way from Kariba to Harare for the same.

“It’s a serious thing that needs urgent attention by government. Even if one is diagnosed, the treatment is not available, affordable and accessible.

“This is why I was advocating for a cancer levy to support awareness programmes. If you look at it now, almost everyone knows about HIV because it was heavily funded,” she said.

Khupe bemoaned steep treatment costs and said all types of cancer treatments can exert a significant psychosocial and financial impact on a patient and his or her family.

“We have members of Parliament who are undergoing chemotherapy and I tell you it’s expensive. One was told that it would be $3 500 per radiotherapy session, meaning she needed $35 000 for the full therapy and we had to ask the Premier Service Medical Aid Society to intervene,” she said.

After active treatment for cancer, a plan has to be developed to monitor for cancer recurrence or spread, follow-up for and management of health problems related to cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment and assess for development of other types of cancer.

These services include routine examinations and tests and are important to manage the consequences of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“For me, it was a miracle, and now this is my sixth year after my treatment and I have not had any problems,” Khupe said.

“I always go for my check-up but they say after five years, you are sort of in the clear. It was in the third stage and I got treatment outside.”

Comments (2)

CANCER require all epensive madication which our country can not have due to status quo. Another warning do not hide your diseases until its too late wanokara mari on the expeneses of the better ment of others in you mother land chirwere chikakubata newewo mushonga hapana tumari nedoro ramunopiwa iro kkkkkkkkkk

dofo - 25 June 2017

Most cancers are caused by poor lifestyle choices and therefore can be avoided. The most important part of the discussion should be prevention but unfortunately that's not the case. It's time to do your own thinking now folks and not take in lies and deception from the politicians. Research and studies have shown that most, if not all cancers are preventable and also reversible by means of switching to a healthful lifestyles that comprise good plant based diets, exercise, no alcohol, no smoking etc. Would you not rather change your lifestyle to avoid cancer or you want to continue and risk having cancer and die, not many people can afford the huge amounts of money that have been mentioned.

misty - 26 June 2017

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