On Saturday, Malawi commemorated World Cancer Day themed Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtogether we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ with emphasis on cervical, breast, liver and skin cancer. Akossa Mphepo gets the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcancer situation in Malawi from Mtabeni Jemu, a medical doctor working in the oncology unit at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
How much progress has Malawi made in terms of treatment and screening?
We have made notable strides through the introduction of an oncology unit at QECH which is providing chemotherapy and some hormonal therapy to cancer patients. There is also a dedicated team of surgeons doing breast and other cancer surgeries in the department of surgery in the same hospital.
In 2004, Malawi adopted a strategy to introduce a national cervical cancer prevention programme using a single visit approach with screening through visual inspection with acetic acid. However, in the 2006 SWOT analysis for the preparation of the national reproductive health strategy, it was noted that cervical cancer services are not widely available and demand for the service has not been fully generated due to limited services. Underutilisation of these services still stands as a major setback.
What key things should people note about cancer?
Your health is your responsibility. Everyone should be interested in knowing what is normal in their being so as to be able to detect any abnormalities and seek help early. It is a must for all women to undergo screening for cervical cancer and to undertake self-breast examinations.
What forms of treatment are available in Malawi?
We currently offer surrey and chemotherapy and some degree of hormonal therapy as treatment for cancer.
What forms of cancer are often ignored in Malawi?
Cancer of the liver and the oesophagus. These two constitute a group of cancers associated with aflatoxin, a compound found in rotten groundnuts and poorly preserved maize and maize flour made from such and alcohol abuse. To prevent this, we need to observe good maize preservation practices at national level because our staple food is maize based. Leading a healthy lifestyle is a must.
What is the most prevalent form of cancer in Malawi?
KaposiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sarcoma is prevalent across the board and in males. Cervical cancer is prevalent in females.