WHILE national records cite cervical cancer as the second most troublesome disease in Tanzania behind breast cancer, the Aga Khan hospital has slotted colorectal cancer in the position.
However, the hospital’s Cancer Department Director, Oncologist Harrison Chuwa, has calmed potential fears amongst community members, saying it had a 95 per cent chance of being cured if it were diagnosed at an early stageSpeaking in Dar es Salaam as part of commemorating Cancer International Day in Dar se Salaam yesterday, he remarked: “Our statistics recently matched with the national ones, with breast cancer holding number one and cervical being numbertwo.
Things changed recently, whereby colorectal cancer overtook the cervical variety.” He urged the public to undertake regular health checkups and donating blood to help patients; confirming that an increase in cancer victims was equal to the increase in blood demand. Another oncologist at the hospital, Dr Aleesha Adatia, alerted the public that change in bowel behaviour, mostly diarrhoea, constipation, narrowing of the stool for about two weeks, are all colorectal cancer symptoms.
Others were rectal bleeding with bright red blood, blood in the stool, belly pains, weakness and fatigue as well as unintended weight loss. “When someone experiences all or a few of the mentioned symptoms, he or she should rush to hospital immediately. There is a guarantee of being cured when treated at initial stages,” she said, adding: “The hospital will soon include cervical cancer screening in its routine screening that covers colorectal cancer.”
Dr Adatia said colorectal screening results showed that people aged between 44 and 60 were the most affected. Females and males were affected by the same percentage (50 -50 per cent), she explained, urging the public to undergo regular check-ups, and explore their families’ backgrounds, citing genetics as one of the triggers, followed by changes in life style.
Life Line Pharmacy Limited Executive Director, Mr David Mujemula told participants that his institution was striving to curb colorectal cancer through distributing test-kits in hospitals and to individuals. It is available at 15, 000/- to 20, 000/- he said, explaining that a person should place the kit in one’s stool mixed with water. When the kit turned yellow, he explained further, it meant there was no problem, but there was if it turned green, whereupon the person should rush to hospital.
A cancer specialist from Mlonganzila Hospital, Dr Christina Malichewe, said that given the rise in cancer problems, the facility (Mlonganzila) would soon offer the services, to compliment the ones offered by the apparently overwhelmed Ocean Road Cancer Institute. In Tanzania, at least 50, 000 patients are diagnosed with cancer problems each year. Out of them, only 13,000 (26 per cent) report to hospitals for treatment.
The number of patients seeking treatment increased to 40 per cent over the past two years.