Health experts have called for more attention on non-communicable diseases like cancer, which has now become more life threatening even to children.
Cancer is the lead cause of non-accidental deaths in children. It is caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body.
Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working.
Dr Ntombi Muchuchuti, who is the Kidzcan executive director, said her organisation was currently the only one in the country that focuses on the welfare of children suffering from cancer.
“Since 2012 we have registered 2 250 childhood cancer cases, 476 are deceased, 713 are active in our database, only four are on remission and the whereabouts of more than 1 400 is unknown,” she said.
These insights were given at the World Cancer Day commemorations which were held recently at the Harare Central Hospital.
Dr Muchuchuti said last year, Kidzcan witnessed rare cases of cancer in children.
“Kidzcan registered young girls aged 14 years, with cancer of the breasts, cancer of the ovaries and a nine month-old boy who developed cancer of the testicles,” she said.
She said it was essential to invest in research as a country in order to understand our genetics.
Much focus has been given to cancers affecting adults and childhood cancers have not received deserved attention.
Unlike adult cancers, the causes of most childhood cancers are still unknown and are not linked to lifestyle and environmental risk factors.
Muchuchuti said it was Kidzcan’s aim to see communities change in their knowledge, attitudes, practice and behaviour and ultimately increased concern regarding cancer.
The organisation held a 100 000km walk to Ethiopia to raise $100 000 for children with cancer.
According to the National Cancer Registry, the most common cancers in children are Retinoblastoma, kidney cancer, brain and nervous system cancer, Leukaemia and Ostreosarcoma.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Aldrin Musiiwa said collaborative effort was required to raise awareness on cancer.
“All health professionals, civic organisation and media fraternity are urged to raise awareness on cancer prevention. The private sector is also urged to support cancer prevention awareness activities,” he said.
He added that despite the difference, each life is precious and immediate action must be taken to reduce the impact of cancer.
“Cancer has not spared even the young ones, they are equally affected by this disease thus attention across the board is required,” said Musiiwa.
He added that Government should aim for decentralisation of cancer treatment centres.
“There must be establishment of cancer treatment centres that provide comprehensive care treatment services. Currently we have only two centres which are in Bulawayo and Harare. This makes it difficult for most people to access these services,” he said.
The latest data reported in 2016 shows that a total of 2 474 cancer deaths comprising 1 192 males and 1 282 females were recorded in Harare and Bulawayo in 2014.
The leading causes of the deaths were cervical cancer at 12 percent, prostate 10 percent, liver 8 percent, oesophagus 8 percent, breast 7 percent, non-Hodgkin lymphoma 6 percent, Kaposi sarcoma 6 percent, stomach 4 percent and lung 4 percent.
A total of 126 childhood cancer deaths were recorded in 2014. These consisted of 76 boys and 50 girls.
Every year, more than 250 000 children and adolescents below the age of 20 years are diagnosed with cancer and 90 000 do not survive.
Health experts say cancers feature among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
HIV patients are also prone to Kaposi sarcoma.
Donance Kangausaru, one of Zimbabwe’s first man to go public about their HIV status, recently got treated for a cancerous eye tumour.
Through assistance from Oncocare Zimbabwe, Kangausaru was treated locally and successfully got the tumour removed.
However, most cancer patients fail to access treatment due to expensive costs.
Experts say if diagnosed early some childhood cancers can be cured.
It is therefore important that Zimbabweans raise more awareness on cancer symptoms, prevention and treatment to curb this killer disease. — Zimpapers Syndication.