8 February 2018

Tanzania: Cancer Alarm As Number of New Cases Skyrockets

Photo: The Citizen
Eye Cancer in Children on the rise in Tanzania.

Moshi — THERE is an alarming upward trend in the number of people diagnosed with cancer, as a Northern Zone referral hospital attended to 3,450 patients against the target of 600 patients.

The Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) has received a total of 3,450 cancer patients between December 2016 and the same month in 2017 that were attended to the hospital's Care Cancer Centre unit, (KCMC-CCC).

The percentage of people to have been found with the abnormal cell growth disease has increased to unanticipated levels while the unit was geared to take the targeted 600 patients projected by the hospital's management, when the cancer unit was introduced at the hospital in December 2016.

KCMC Executive Director, Dr Gileard Masenga unveiled to the 'Daily News' that before introducing the cancer unit at KCMC, they received 433 cancer patients in 2016; the number that made the hospital management see the importance of establishing the entity, but with a much lower expectation in number of patients. He said among the 3,450 patients, 746 cancer patients were new cases and that the number has been rising from time to time.

Dr Masenga said the hospital intends to initiate construction of a ward for them; so as to deal with the challenge of accommodation that he said was facing cancer patients who receive treatment at the hospital.

"This construction is the second phase as far as the cancer unit's improvement is concerned, of which the first phase involved the construction of administrative buildings and areas of treating cancer patients," he said, adding that the second phase is expected to cost more than 2bn/-.

The Head of the Cancer Unit at the hospital, Dr Furaha Serventi, said that one of the challenges facing the fight against cancer was lack of education among the majority of the people; something he said should be dealt with immediately in order to save lives. Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.

Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements. There are about 100 types of cancers that affect humans. Tanzania has only one specialised facility for cancer treatment - Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) that was founded by the German colonial government.

In June 1996, by an Act of Parliament, ORCI was made an autonomous institute directly under the ministry responsible for health. World Health Organisation (WHO) said this year that nearly every family in the world is affected by cancer that is now responsible for almost one in six deaths globally.

On World Cancer Day, WHO highlighted that cancer no longer needs to be a death sentence, as the capacity exists to reduce its burden and improve the survival and quality of life of people living with the disease.

WHO Director for the Department for Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, Dr Etienne Krug was quoted on February 4 as saying that all countries could do more to prevent and treat cancer, given the fact that main causes of cancer are known.

Acting upon the causes now would avoid the many cases occurring in the first place and that by strengthening the health system response, world could also ensure earlier diagnosis and better access to affordable treatment by qualified personnel, thereby saving millions of lives.

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