Health system fails cancer patients

Cancer patients countrywide are suffering from a lack of specialist equipment and trained healthcare professionals.

Low-income patients like Nyson Mhaka from Mberengwa have resigned themselves to their fate after waiting for months to get treatment from government hospitals.

“I have been hospitalized here for a long time and have since lost hope of any treatment for the cancer I’m suffering from,” said Mhaka, who has been receiving attention at Musume Hospital in Mberengwa.

He now hopes to find better luck in the capital.

The situation is so dire in Zimbabwe, with the country reported to be have only four specialists who can operate the equipment, namely a mammogram, a special x-ray machine used to detect breast cancer early and a gryoscreen for prostate cancer. Many patients are forced to depend on home care, which is far from ideal.

Evidence Chapupu from Harare has taken up the role of caregiver for her husband after he was diagnosed with cancer of the blood.

“Since my husband was diagnosed with cancer in February this year, I have not had enough time to attend to other domestic issues as I have to give all the attention to him,” Chapupu said.

While cancer cases are said to be on the increase, Tafadzwa Chigariro, an officer at The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe, says the association does not have up-to-date statistics on the disease.

“We rely on a government agent, the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, which collects and collates statistics on cancer, but the statistics are based on institutions, which are obtained in individual hospital records,” said Chigariro.

Chigariro said the country recorded at least 5,000 to 7,000 cancer cases annually up to 2009.

He said the increase in cancer cases was due to HIV infection.

“About 60% of cancer cases are related to HIV as many people diagnose with cancer these days develop AIDS-defining malignance (cancer),” Chigariro said.

Madzorera said radiotherapy treatment services were only available at Mpilo and Parirenyatwa hospitals, despite the growing burden of cancer countrywide.

He added that equipment at the two hospitals offering radiotherapy services was constantly down, thereby compromising the quality of service delivery to cancer patients.

Post published in: News

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