Batswana have been advised to make the necessary adjustments including, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances as these go a long way in helping to keep cancer at bay.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Alfred Madigele made the call on Monday during the 2019 World Cancer Day commeorations at the Mochudi Kgotla. Held under the theme, “You can, I can,” the day took a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions exist and that they are within reach.
“The campaign outlines actions that communities and individuals can take to save lives, achieve greater equity in cancer care and make fighting cancer a priority, Dr Madigele said.Since it is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t, DrMadigele stressed the importance of screening, early detection, diet and exercise.
Other lifestyle modifications that the minister mentioned included avoiding tobacco smoking and chewing, limiting alcohol intake and staying safe under the sun. He emphasised that high index of suspicion for early symptoms and signs of cancer was key, because “finding cancer early makes it easier to treat and cure.”
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide; more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. According to the Union for International Cancer Control, (UICC), in the past year, cancer accounted for 8.2 million deaths out of which 4 million were people between the ages between 39 and 60 years. Botswana is not immune from this malady. Since 1999 when the Botswana National Cancer Registry was established, increasing numbers of cancer cases have been recorded.
It is estimated that 1400 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually in Botswana with 70 percent being diagnosed late when there is little chance for cure and treatment is more expensive and uncomfortable to patients.The most commonly diagnosed cancers in Botswana include Kaposi Sarcoma (skin cancer), Cervical, Breast, Oesophageal and prostate cancers.
The minister pointed to milestones government has achieved like providing quality health services across the country for the prevention, early detection and treatment of various forms of cancer. These include screening modalities for cervical cancer such as See and Treat, and pap smears so that cancers are detected early and treated. These services are offered in 45 facilities across 26 districts.
Furthermore, young girls aged between 9 and 13 years are vaccinated against cervical cancer. Despite these strides, Madigele regretted that there remained some factors working against these efforts to effectively combat the scourge of cancer in Botswana. These include poor awareness, poor health seeking behaviour and low number of skilled health care personnel.
It is hoped that the multi-sectoral national NCD Strategy( 2018/2022) which will be launched soon, will consolidate and focus country efforts in mitigating the burden of NCD in the country.