Malawi cancer cases on the rise- study

Cancer cases are on the increase in Malawi, the Ministry of Health drawing data from a study by the national cancer registry have  suggested.

Ministry of Health spokesman Henry Chimbali acknowledged that the figures should be treated with caution, saying the figures is so because of better diagnosis.

Chimbali said projections of cancer cases are important “for planning health services” and also  “where health awareness messages need to be raised.”

Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) Director, Dr. Andew Gonani bemoaned that many people go to the hospital when the disease is at an advanced stage.

Queen Elizabeth Central hospital Director Dr.Andrew Gonani : Early diagnosis is good
Queen Elizabeth Central hospital Director Dr.Andrew Gonani : Early diagnosis is good

He said it was disheartening to note that for every 10 people who go to the hospital, eight of them are always in a critical condition which cannot be treated.

“Whether one is sick or not it is good to go for cancer screening before the disease becomes untreatable,” advised Gonani.

The findings, state that Kaposi sarcoma, cancer of the cervix and cancer of the oesophagus are common cancers in Malawi.

“With high HIV prevalence of 10.6 percent, the increase is Kaposi sarcoma and cervical cancer was in agreement with the findings from other studies,” says the study.

The research findings, entitled: Burden of Cancer in Malawi; Common Types, Incidence and Trends, was done by Kelias Phiri  Msyamboza, Charles Dzamalala, Catherine Mdokwe, Steve Kamiza, Marshal Lemerani, Titha Dzowela and Damson Kathyola.

The results show that a total of 18, 946 new cases of cancer were registered in Malawi from 2007 to 2010.

Out of these, 55.9 percent were females, 7.2 percent were children aged less than 15 years, 76.5 percent were adults aged 15-59 years and 16.4 percent were elderly aged 60 years or more.

Only 17.9 percent of the cases had histologically verified diagnosis, 33.2 percent were diagnosed clinically while 49.6 percent of the cases were based on clinical and some investigations.

Among females, cancer of the cervix was the commonest, accounting for 45.4 percent of all cases, followed by Kaposi sarcoma (21.1 percent), cancer of the oesophagus (8.2 percent), breast (4.6 percent) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (4.1 percent).

In males, Kaposi sarcoma was the most frequent (50.7 percent) then cancer of oesophagus (16.9 percent), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (7.8 percent), prostate (4 percent) and urinary bladder (3.7 percent).

The study shows that annually Malawi records at least 8, 000 new cases.

Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara said cancer is not a death sentence, saying “ more than 30 percent of cancers could be cured if detected early and treated adequately.”

Cancer specialists say smoking and drinking alcohol are two of the biggest things that increase the chance of developing oral, liver and kidney cancer.

“Alcohol increases the risk of cancer even at low doses,” say the researchers from the University of Milan and other centres in the US, France, Canada, Iran and Sweden.

They argued that by stopping smoking and cutting back on alcohol, people can lower risk of these cancers as well as other diseases.

“Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is also important in cutting the risk of liver and kidney cancers.”

Cancer Association of Malawi (CAM) Chairperson, Chifundo Chogawana said cancer remains the biggest challenge in Malawi because of lack of awareness about the disease.

He appealed to government to treat cancer like any other deadly disease such as HIV and AIDS by creating massive awareness campaigns.

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