Cancer has become the major cause of deaths in Zimbabwe following the failure to decentralize cancer screening and treatment to inaccessible parts of the country.
Minister of Health and Child Care Doctor Obadiah Moyo expressed concern over the ever raising rate of cancer deaths.
“Currently, over 5 000 new cancer diagnoses of different types have been recorded in Zimbabwe annually, but experience has shown us that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many cancers are not captured by the routine national health information system, because the patients do not present themselves for treatment or register deaths,” Dr. Moyo said.
“Of those who do report, the majority are already at an advanced stage of the disease, with limited access to screening,” he said.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among females worldwide.
In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recorded 527,624 new cervical cancer cases and 265,672 related deaths.
An estimated 90% of the globally recorded cervical cancer-related deaths are in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), for which eight in 10 are recorded within the Sub-Saharan African region.
The morbidity and mortality of cervical cancer is much lower in developed countries due to availability of efficient and accessible screening programs as well as diagnostic and treatment facilities.
Meanwhile, in LMICs where the bulk of global cervical cancer cases are diagnosed (>85%) there is a poor survival rate attributable to late presentation to diagnosis and patients not receiving or completing their prescribed treatment regimens.
In LMICs there are challenges in affordability and availability of drugs, as well as access to treatment facilities.
The biggest risk factor of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), commonly detected in cervical tumor specimens. The sexually transmitted infection, genital warts that are caused by high-risk HPV subtypes, have been shown to present with a 99% chance of progressing to cervical cancer.
Administering broad-spectrum HPV vaccines to adolescents in developed countries such as France, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, UK and USA has decreased the prevalence of cervical cancer, thus proving successful as a preventive measure.
A cancer screening and treatment camp has been launched at Parirenyatwa where all cancer issues will be referred.
“This is the third time in three consecutive years that such a clinical camp has been held at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and we hope that this third phase will see over 3000 women cumulatively being screened and some actually receiving the necessary treatment,” said Dr Moyo.