5 February 2013

Africa: Zambia Tops Africa Cancer Management

UNIVERSITY Teaching Hospital (UTH) senior registrar in the school of hematology and oncology, Catherine Chunda has said Zambia is ahead of other countries in Africa in effective management of childhood cancers.

Dr Chunda said, out of the 12.7 million new cases of cancers globally, about 7.6 million deaths occur, adding that about 200,000 new cases of cancers are recorded in developing countries.

She, however, said the biggest challenge impeding effective management of cancers in Zambia was that patients did not seek medical attention early enough.

Dr Chunda said this at a media breakfast meeting in Lusaka recently.

"Most patients, who come to health centres, come with already advanced stages of cancers. Most of these are normally in stage four (the critical/last stage of cancer), leaving the medical practitioners with very limited options on how to deal with the situation," Dr Chunda said.

She said the most common cases of childhood cancers were Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, Nephroblastoma and Kaposi's sarcoma.

Dr Chunda said in adults, cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of mortality in women.

She said delayed medical intervention and refusal or lack of adherence to medication, were among the causes of treatment failure in the effective management of cancers in both children and adults.

"In the case of Zambia, we have about 45 per cent treatment abandonment rates, with 45 per cent mortality rate. In the treatment of cancer, the treatment period ranges from about 6 months to 2 years, and chemotherapy is administered every three weeks. This entails adherence to medication, which some patients fail to follow," she said.

Dr Chunda said although causes of cancers very varied especially in adults, causes of cancers that affect children could be attributed to genetic problems.

She however, disclosed that some of the causes of cancer in children were as a result of exposure to carcinogenic factors in the environment.

Cancer Diseases Hospital executive director, Kennedy Lishimpi said the Ministry of Health had set aside a dedicated budget of KR10 million for cancer mediation for both adults and children.

Dr Lishimpi said the budget for cancer medication was still inadequate, because treatment costs were as high as KR1 million per dose.

Meanwhile, the 12-day cancer awareness campaign which began yesterday will run through to February 15, when the International Childhood Cancer day will be commemorated.

Prevention better than treatment

IN the 1960s and 1970s, physicians and medical educators began to recognise a basic flaw in the health care system.

Medicine traditionally was concerned with treating disease after symptoms appeared, resulting in treatment that was often very expensive.

Medical officials have now recognised the advantage of partnership for disease prevention in the first place, rather than just treating it.

Medical schools have begun teaching students the importance of disease prevention. Some physicians have specialised in a new field 'preventive medicine' which emphasises keeping patients healthy.

Practicing physicians are spending more time counseling patients about smoking, excessive drinking, and other unhealthy practices.

They are doing so by encouraging patients to avoid risk factors for disease; taking periodic screening tests that detect disease early; and treating high blood pressure.

Yet by the late 1990s, many people still failed to use preventive services.

Some studies have estimated that some deaths could be prevented if more people are to be immunised against influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, and hepatitis B or given the preventive information on certain diseases especially those occurring as outbreaks like cholera, dysentery or typhoid.

Likewise, smoking, the leading preventable cause of death in the industrialised world, causes more than 4 million deaths worldwide each year.

Another dramatic change in medicine involves the idea that individuals have an important role in preventing diseases caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.

Health care consumers have now grown more knowledgeable about medicine. Medical pages have become a regular feature of major newspapers, news magazines, and television news programs.

Some people are now subscribing to magazines and newsletters devoted entirely to health.

Lay people are now able to consult books that were once only used by professionals.

They are also tapping health information available on the Internet's World Wide Web.

With this knowledge, consumers have sought to become partners with their physicians in deciding the best ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating disease.

Mumbwa residents happy with shelter construction

MUMBWA residents have welcomed commencement of construction works of the mother's shelter at Mumbwa District Hospital.

And Mumbwa District Commissioner Sunday Shamabanse has paid tribute to local investors and business houses for partnering with Government in the construction of the shelter at the hospital.

Mr Shamabanse said he was happy that the business community had come to the aid of the people of Mumbwa, adding that construction of the mother's shelter will be completed by the end of March this year.

He said Government has committed itself to providing quality health services to its people and that the move by the investors and business community to partner with it was welcome.

Some people spoken to at the hospital thanked the Government and the business community listening to their cries.

How to treat fever

FEVER, also known as pyrexia is a rise in the body's temperature, as measured in the mouth to above 37 degrees celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

However, temperatures of up to 37.5 degrees Celsius may be considered normal depending on certain conditions, weather or body activities engaged in before temperature taking.

Fever is a symptom of many disorders, such as infection by a virus or a bacterium, and it is not itself a disease.

The term fever is also used to name certain diseases, such as relapsing fever, rheumatic fever, scarlet fever, undulant fever, and yellow fever, in which high fever is a major symptom.

The first signs of fever may be chilly sensations, with associated periods of flushed or warm feelings.

The temperature may rise slowly or rapidly and may fluctuate. A rise in temperature may be accompanied by shivering chills.

A falling temperature may bring on heavy sweating.

Although people have survived temperatures over 43° C (110° F), a fever higher than 41° C (106° F) typically results in convulsions, particularly in babies or the elderly.

The normal healthy body constantly produces heat as cells burn food for energy. At the same time, the body loses heat through the skin and through breathing.

The temperature of the body is a measure of the balance between heat produced and heat lost.

Under normal circumstances the heat produced is balanced by the heat lost, keeping the body temperature at the best level for the cells to carry out their chemical processes.

This system of temperature regulation can be upset by bacterial or viral infections, such as tonsillitis or influenza. In these cases, proteins called pyrogens are released when the white blood cells of the body's defense system fight the microorganisms responsible for the illness.

In some cases the pyrogens are released by the microorganisms themselves.

The pyrogens act on the hypothalamus, a small area of the brain that functions as a thermometer, causing it to raise the body's temperature.

While the temperature is rising, the tiny vessels supplying the skin with blood can narrow, sharply reducing sweating, which is a way for body heat to escape.

The body will thus produce more heat than it can lose, and fever will result. At the same time, this mechanism helps the body to fight off infection, and in some cases a very high fever may actually kill the bacteria causing the infection.

Fever can be reproduced artificially to relieve the symptoms of such diseases as arthritis and various brain and skin disorders.

Artificial fever was once used for the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease.

In 1917 the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Julius Wagner von Jauregg observed that patients suffering from this disease were greatly improved after an attack of malaria, which had caused high fever.

Malarial fever was used in the treatment of syphilis until the discovery of penicillin.

Although fever is basically a protective mechanism, it often produces weakness and fatigue.

During a fever the body loses large amounts of salts and water through sweating, and the patient's desire for food or water is greatly reduced.

Prolonged fever may result in the destruction of body protein and fat, which can lead to serious weight loss.

Fever is generally treated by lowering the body's temperature with Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) e.g. aspirin, and by applying cool compresses or alcohol sponges.

To replace the fluids lost from the body by sweating, patients are usually given large quantities of liquids to drink. In the case of very high fever, cold baths and ice packs on the body can be effective.

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