Parliament on cancer awareness drive

….calls on government to set up cancer services across the country

Parliament is on a drive to raise awareness of cancer and push for services across the country.

Cancer is now one of the top killers in the country, and parliamentarians are calling for vibrant awareness programmes and urging people to go for early screening before the epidemic spreads.

The disease is set to overtake HIV and AIDS as the leading cause of death in Zimbabwe, as cancer is often diagnosed late with very few oncologists in public hospitals.

For instance, in Zimbabwe, incidents of cervical cancer are reported to be 35 deaths per 100 000 women compared to the global average of 15 deaths.

This was heard in Parliament where the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development delivered a report on Cancer Treatment and Control in Zimbabwe.

Senator for Matabeleland South, Bekithemba Mpofu, said there is a need to avail cancer services in all wards across the country so that people can easily access information and treatment.

“It is a request of the committee that cancer services be made available in all wards so that people can easily access information and treatment on cancer because the disease is causing problems in different ways,” he said.

Mpofu noted that the two major hospitals which offer cancer services were also experiencing challenges of machinery that broke down continuously, a setback that negatively affected those who would have travelled long distances.

“Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare are the only institutions that attend to cancer patients but it is however difficult for people to access these areas due to costs of travel and that the radio therapy machines they have are always down.

“Another challenge is the shortage of radiographers to operate those machinery, as most of them have left the country for greener pastures,” he said.

The senator noted that is a need to educate people cancer and dissuade them from frequenting traditional healers thinking there is a ready cure for the scourge.

“People should be conscientised so that they do not go to traditional healers for cancer. If you go to the traditional healers you end up questioning yourself and the problem.

“It is however, expensive to acquire treatment for cancer which is why we calling for the government to subsidise treatment when one is accessing these services. We have noticed that it takes longer for people who have been diagnosed with cancer to be treatment due to the high costs,” he said.

Mpofu further added that there was a need to educate public on cancer of the uterus and prostate, as they are also on the rise.

Mashonaland East Senator, Jane Chifamba, said in most instances, when people sought help, the cancer would have already spread to other parts of the body.

“By the time a person is diagnosed with cancer, the disease has already spread to other parts of the body and treatment will be expensive. Awareness campaigns should be done and be published in both electronic and print media so that everyone can access cancer information,” she said.

Chifamba added that cancer screening and treatment should be made affordable so that patients could be able to access the facilities.

“I also think the cost of cancer screening and treatment should be affordable because most people cannot afford it, hence the call for a decrease on the cost of cancer treatment,” she said.

Cancer is a complex group disease with many possible causes ranging from genetics, sun and other types of radiation, diet and physical activity among other chief causes.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, cancer remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality with over 5 000 new diagnoses and over 1 500 deaths per year in Zimbabwe.

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