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MP calls for affordable cancer screening services

A parliamentarian has called for affordable screening services for prostate cancer in Zimbabwe as parts of the efforts to encourage more men to get screened.

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the gland cells of the prostate, which is found only in males.

According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2018 prostate cancer deaths in Zimbabwe reached 739 or 0.62 percent of total deaths. 

Speaking in Parliament last week, Bulawayo East Member legislator Ilos Nyoni asked the Minister of Health and Child Care to inform the house on the measures taken to facilitate treatment of prostate cancer.

“I heard the Minister saying the facilities are there for screening from 40 years upwards, where they are screened for cervical cancer and other cancers but for men you have to pay through the nose. What arrangements or facilities are you putting in place for men to get this screening for free,” said MP Nyoni.

In response, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro said the treatment of prostate cancer begins with advocacy programmes.

“The treatment of prostate cancer begins with advocacy programmes of awareness that men aged between 40 and 70 should undergo annual prostate cancer screening in order to catch it early,” said Dr. Mangwiro.

“The non-communicable disease unit in the Ministry of Health and Child care is responsible for advocacy and encouraging mento undergo annual screening for prostate cancer, pathology screening and diagnostic capacity”.

He said the management of prostate cancer is conducted in a highly specialised unit of Parirenyatwa Hospital and Mpilo Central Hospital Pathology diagnostics labs and centres for radiotherapy.

“Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals Pathology Diagnosis Laboratories have capacity to provide the following screening and diagnostic methods, rapid prostate specific antigen PSA, quantitative chemuluscent PSA Assay, histopathology which is routine diagnosis and immunosito chemotherapy for PSA tissue diagnosis.

“Mpilo Hospital as well as the pathology diagnostic laboratory has capacity to provide histopathology, routine diagnosis and gleason grade grouping.

Dr Mangwiro however noted that the management of cancer is highly specialised and very expensive for both diagnostics and treatment.

“Treatment of prostate cancer depends on the gleason grade grouping which ranges from grade groups 1-5 where 5 is the highest and most aggressive cancers. The treatment methods include surgical operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy,” he said.

Dr Mangwiro said the Government’s aim is to make sure that all men get screened at a price that is reasonable, especially if it is done at government hospitals.

“Yes, screening of cancers in general is quite expensive for prostate cancer. Government policy is that anyone can get this screening done. There might be a slight difference if it is done privately but testing in our government hospitals must be quite reasonable,” he said

“The chief method is advocacy so that people know that this disease exists because besides testing, if one is tested, it is much cheaper than waiting for the disease itself to crop up when you have to now diagnose it and you have to be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy,” he said.

Dr Mangwiro added that there are plans in the pipeline for most cancers to be treated and screened for free, especially prostate cancer.

“So, this is in the pipeline such that everyone must be treated for free and must be screened for free but this will take a bit of time while planning, seeing where the monies can be taken from, say from the Aids levies or whatever. We are still looking into where these things can be done because prostate cancer is quite vicious and it is common these days,” he said.

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