National Aids Council (NAC) is set to launch cancer training, screening and management programme in all the seven districts of Mashonaland West Province. This is aimed at accelerating the fight against non-communicable diseases in both children and adults. In an interview, NAC Mashonaland West provincial manager Mr Agrippa Zizhou said it was the relationship between cancer and HIV that prompted them to prioritise cancer awareness going into 2018.
"Zimbabwe is among the 30 highly burdened countries in the world in terms of HIV and tuberculosis, including non-communicable diseases (NCD)," he said. "Cancer is emerging as a major public health concern in Zimbabwe. Cancer is one of the four major NCDs, together with Cardio vascular diseases, Diabetes mellitus and chronic respiratory diseases. And as part of our mandate, NAC will educate health workers, the community and women in particular." Mr Zizhou said areas of focus included community sensitisation, linking service provision and demand, health literacy, advocacy, research and spread community awareness on cancer.
"The Cancer Awareness, Screening and Treatment Project is in line with the Ministry of Health and Child Care's mission to address the needs of our community so that the people can fully attain their health potential, appreciate health as a valuable asset and take positive actions to further improve and sustain their health status," he said. Mr Zizhou said once diagnosed of cancer, most people become uncertain about the future. The programme, he said, will address the emotional turmoil and equip people with an accurate roadmap towards obtaining optimal medical intervention.
According to NAC, 75 percent of cancer cases are unknown, while the remainder is genetically inherited or a result of genetic mutation, genetic-environmental interaction, environmental-chemicals and lifestyle factors, ionising radiation, infections and drugs. Mr Zizhou said NAC would continue to fine-tune its programme's blueprint, which is aimed at addressing the real health needs of under-resourced communities. This, he said, would be anchored on partnerships with other organisations.
"Some types of cancer occur in patients with Aids. These are called Aids defining cancers, including Karposi Sarcoma, cervical cancer and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In cancer awareness campaigns, we target women because of the risk factors of cervical cancer that is caused by the Human Papilloma virus," said Mr Zizhou
Some cancers are caused by factors such as having sex at an early age, multiple and concurrent sexual partners, sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV and Aids. Other factors include harmful cultural practices such as insertion of herbs into private parts, family history of cervical cancer, dietary factors -- including low levels of vitamin A, C and folic acid, tobacco use in all its forms and failure to receive cervical cancer screening and vaccination.