Govt tackles cancer treatment costs

HARARE - Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has said government is in the process of studying proposals to reduce the high costs of treating cancer patients as his ministry launches a full assault on the disease which is emerging as one of the top killers in a country ravaged by poverty.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s public health institutions such as State hospitals are grappling with serious shortages of drugs and antiquated equipment.

“On what are we going to do to alleviate the problem of treatment of cancer since the costs are very high?   Yes it is very expensive.

“When diagnosed, whether it is breast cancer, cervical cancer or prostate cancer, you get to the extent whereby you need to receive the treatment.  We have radiotherapy and this is expensive.  The session for radiotherapy is about US$200.

“As the ministry of Health and Child Care, we are discussing with the minister of Finance and Economic Development so that treatment of cancer can be subsidised.  We are even talking about diverting Aids Levy funds for the treatment of cancer.

“A good example is what is happening at Mpilo; they have taken some of that cash and bought some equipment so that they can relieve the cancer sufferers at a low price.  As government, we want to prevent cancer,” Parirenyatwa told Senate on Thursday.

“We need to immunise even to the extent of educating people on how to examine the cancer occurrence especially on breast, cervical and prostate cancer. 

“Women should be able to carry out some palpitations and men should be able to detect the onset of prostate cancer, especially when they see that they are having a problem in passing urine. For women, when they discover some growth in their breasts, they should know that there is a problem,” added Parirenyatwa.

Zimbabwe has been witnessing a rising number of cancer deaths which experts attribute to late detection and late treatment services.

Parirenyatwa said screening offers the opportunity to detect cancer early and with an increased opportunity for treatment and curative intent.

“As a ministry, when we are talking about cancer, we are saying we should prevent cancer.  This is our first stage and that is why we have embarked on screening of cancer.  The first lady is in the forefront in the campaign against cervical cancer so that we prevent it. 

“The other stage is that we have young girls from the ages of 9 to 14, we are vaccinating these young girls against cervical cancer.  Now that schools have opened, we are moving around the country vaccinating these young girls.  We are starting with the 10-year-olds; we immunise them against the spread of cervical cancer,” said Parirenyatwa.

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