Dar es Salaam — At least 80 per cent of cancer patients report to the hospital when the disease has either reached an advanced or terminal stage, thus increasing the burden of treating them.
This was said by the minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, the Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, last Thursday during the Mwananchi Thought Leadership Forum, which was organised by Mwananchi Communications Limited.
The forum was meant to discuss issues related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and come up with suggestions on how to control the killer disease.
"When cancer is at an advanced stage, it is difficult to treat it, this increases a burden on the government because plenty of money is spent on treating them. This can be avoided if cancer early diagnosis is done," said Ms Mwalimu.
The government provides palliative care to these patients to relieve the symptoms, pain, physical stress and mental stress of a terminal diagnosis so as to not let them suffer to the end.
Speaking of current prevalence of cancer diseases in the country, Ms Mwalimu revealed that the country had 2,000 patients in 2006, which increased to 5000 patients in 2011 and has now risen to at least 50,000 who visit the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) per year.
To enhance cancer treatment at ORCI, the minister expounded that the government has decided to allocate Sh7 billion for the institute with a view to accelerating cancer treatment services.
The minister also allayed fears over cervical cancer vaccination, saying it does not have negative impacts contrary to reports being circulated on the various social media networks.
"I want to tell Tanzanians that the cervical cancer vaccination is safe. It is meant to prevent young girls from developing the fatal disease, so people should ignore what is being circulated on social media platforms," she said.
For his part, the chairman of Diabetes Association of Tanzania and NCD's Alliance, Prof Andrew Swai, called on the Tanzanians to develop a habit of consuming natural foods because they play a great role in metabolism.
"Winnowing of maize and other grains reduces starch and the food becomes useless.
It leads to problems like constipation and this can lead to cancer," said Swai.
Dr Julius Mwaiselage, the Executive Director of ORCI, said that now there are more than 600 centres in the country that can screen cervical cancer and breast cancer.
"The challenge is that they are not enough because of a big demand. There is another challenge of lacking inquiry services for prostate cancer in different areas of the country," said Mwaiselage.
Diagnosis services are available at all hospital levels, but pathology services are not. They can only be accessed at regional and national referral hospitals.
"The government is striving to ensure that there are many centres for such specialised services."
He added that there should be sustainable supply of medicine, reminding the government to consider unequal distribution.