Malawi medic calls for ban of public smoking to prevent cancer

Studies conducted by the Oncology department at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre have shown that the type of lung cancer which is not very common  in Malawi may be highly reduced if public smoking was regulated.

Malawi’s only Oncologist, Dr Leo Masamba called on government to consider banning public smoking as one way of preventing lung cancer.

“Active or passive smoking greatly contributes to the cause of lung cancer. It’s so sad that others may develop it because someone they are close to or work with smokes a lot,” he said.

Masamba: Ban public smoking

Ministry of Health Spokesperson, Henry Chimbali, told Malawi News Agency  that passive smokers inhale the second hand smoke which also contains carcinogens that may cause other health disorders including lung cancer, just as active smokers.

He pointed out that the Ministry is aware that public smoking poses health risks but as of now, banning public smoking remains the responsibility of the owners of the premises to create a clean environment for all the people and other animals living within the vicinity.

“However, its enforcement by government lacks supporting policies and regulations which Malawi currently does not have. Our research on risk factors for non communicable diseases shows that 14.1 percent of the adult population aged between 25 and 64 use tobacco products,” Chimbali noted.

Dr Ntabeni Jemu, Medical Officer in the Oncology department of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) said a study conducted in 2008 in 28 hospitals indicated that out of 10,375 cancer patients, 30 of them had lung cancer.

“This is an indication that lung cancer is little in Malawi and if people were to live a healthy life style, the cases would decrease,” said Dr. Jemu.

Coughing out blood, weight loss, horse voice and shortness of breath are some of the signs of lung cancer.

“Lung cancer signs are often being confused with that of Tuberculosis, a thing which has led to loss of life because the patient may have been put on wrong dosage. They may finish up TB treatment but they don’t respond,” added Dr. Jemu.

Lung cancer is mostly managed with Chemotherapy cancer drugs and in some instances needs Radiotherapy type of treatment.

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