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Women with no babies at high risk of ovarian cancer

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An Oncologist at Gaborone Private Hospital (GPH) Dr Sebathu Chiyapo is calling on women to be more aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer; one of the deadliest gynecological cancers which kill many women every year. “Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed too late,” Dr Chiyapo said in an interview.”It’s important for women to know their risk of contracting this deadly disease, and its earliest warning signs,” he added. Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers among women but causes more deaths than any other cancer involving the female reproductive system, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports.

According to Dr Chiyapo, all women are at risk of ovarian cancer, and one in 75 will develop the disease. More than 250, 000 women worldwide are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and 140,000 die from it.

Factors associated with the risk for ovarian cancer include certain gene mutations, endometriosis, obesity, and early onset of periods or late menopause, not having children and using fertility medication. Women who have had breast cancer or certain other types of cancer and women over age 70 have higher odds of developing the disease. Also dubbed the ‘silent killer,’ early symptoms of ovarian cancer are mild and easy to ignore, according to Dr Chiyapo.

They include bloating, indigestion, nausea, pain in the abdomen and back, feeling full quickly, frequent urination, weight gain and shortness of breath. Women who have these symptoms for more than a week should consult a doctor, he suggested. “While these symptoms are common and may be caused by something other than ovarian cancer, I advise women to take them seriously,” Dr Chiyapo said. “A woman knows what is normal for her own body. If her symptoms don’t seem normal and last for two weeks or longer, she should bring them to her doctor’s attention”.

Ovarian cancer is highly treatable if detected early. If the cancer is just in the ovary (stage 1), the average five-year survival rate is 90 percent. However, the odds of survival are much lower if the cancer is more advanced, Dr Chiyapo explained. He said several factors can reduce a woman’s risk, including: following a healthy, low-fat diet; having many children; using birth control; and having tubal ligation surgery.

He noted that some women at high risk have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a precaution. For example, in 2015 actress Angelina Jolie disclosed that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because she had a significantly increased risk of ovarian cancer due to the BRCA1 gene mutation.

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BATTLE FOR MMADIKOLO

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University of Botswana students are bracing themselves for the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections. Contenders are fighting tooth and nail to appease the electorate. Three camps are in contention to fill the 13 council positions.

Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) Moono-wa-Baithuti has the onerous task of defending all the 13 seats which they hauled at the last elections of 2018. “As Moono wa Baithuti, we have lots of achievements. We are on the verge of getting the student bar open, so we need to go back and fix what we started,” said UDC’s Tumelo Legase who is vying for the position of Vice President.

He said they have advocated for student empowerment policies and are also proposing a third arm of student representation. “We have the SRC and the Judiciary, what we need is the student Parliament so that we have a large number of leaders who can independently attend to problems across the university.” The dark horse in this race is the University of Botswana’s Alliance for Progressive (AP) which will take another leap of faith despite their loss in the previous election.

They are rejuvenated and redefined. Candidate for Vice President Karabo Bokwe said central to their mandate is making the welfare of the student community a priority. “We want to help eradicate school policies that border on oppression, and through new polices call for initiatives that come with enterprenuership benefits to students.”

AP candidate for Information and Publicity, a first year Criminal Justice student Gracious Selelo said they are more united than other parties even at national level. “We don’t have internal squabbles within our party, we are more focused and can deliver our mandate easily,” she noted.

However the ruling party’s BDP GS-26 will come with all guns blazing after an embarrassing defeat in the previous elections. Preparations have been made and the GS-26 is looking to take the elections by storm.

According to their Presidential Candidate Boniface Seane, they come with the message of hope that addresses the current status quo at the University.“The university is not functioning so we drew three policies that embrace inclusiveness. We want to lead collectively with the students, through the student body meetings which the previous SRCs have failed to do. “We will consult with the students with no discrimination.”

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Healthcare system to improve

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The Health ministry has developed a seven-point programme to guide the country in improving the healthcare system, says Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Rabashemi Madigele.

“The seven priority areas will serve as a roadmap and a guardian angel towards improving the overall healthcare system and increasing access to health care while fighting the burden of disease that confronts us,” said Madigele at Masa Square Hotel on Tuesday.

The focal areas include decentralisation; Universal Health Coverage, Tertiary Care, Strategic leveraging on the Private sector; Supply Chain; Research as well as Staff welfare and accountability.
Point-one of the seven priority areas according to Dr Madigele is about empowering the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and transforming them into fully fledged Regional Health Authorities.

“In this case, they will be rationalised from 27 to 18 and have the authority to hire A and B Scales, promote up to C1 and manage micro procurement,” he said. Point two is about improving the quality of healthcare services. “The main causes of mortality and their risk factors in Botswana are Primary Health Care issues,” Dr Madigele said.

He added that “Our efforts for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage should thus focus on: Prevention; Comprehensive screening; Early treatment; and Surveillance at the community.”
This he said, would require revamped grassroots efforts in which adequate numbers of community health workers through partnerships with the non-governmental sector will be deployed as necessary.

According to Dr Madigele, the top five causes of death in Botswana in 2017 were HIV/AIDS, Ischemic heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and Diabetes. He said compared to 2007, NCDs among these had increased in burden by an average of 34%. The top five risk factors related to these causes of mortality were unsafe sex; poor diet; high blood pressure; alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Improving the quality of care, Madigele said will also include the safety and security of patients; attitudes of staff as experienced by patients; time taken in queues either before seeing a health worker or receiving medication and the availability of drugs.

Meanwhile, the health minister revealed that the commissioning of Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) is ongoing with the facility scheduled for opening on April 24th. “This will be a phased approach commencing with some services including paediatric oncology, internal medicine, rheumatology and endocrinology, diagnostic radiology, laboratory services and pharmacy”.

A phased commissioning of SKMTH will reduce overdependence on South Africa for referrals, reduce costs and also institutionalise provision of super specialist services within Botswana.

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