BREAST cancer survivor and politician, Dr Thokozani Khupe says the Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care should build more cancer treatment facilities in all wards so as to increase accessibility and save lives.
Dr Khupe, through the Thokozani Khupe Cancer Foundation (TKCF) said increasing the number of facilities for screening and treatment would change the fortunes of many women in need of the vital services.
“As the TKCF we would like to implore the Government to build cancer treatment centres in all the 1 958 wards in order for cancer treatment facilities to be accessible. Currently in Zimbabwe there are two cancer treatment facilities which are at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare,” she said.
Dr Khupe, who is also the president of MDC said the centres are supposed to service every citizen but there were challenges because they have not been established.
Breast and cervical cancer which are the most common in Zimbabwe are screened throughout the country with United Bulawayo Hospitals having a dedicated Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIAC) unit where women can be screened for cancers.
Dr Khupe said many women were succumbing to cancers due to lack of knowledge and late detection.
“Cancer is indisputably a rising epidemic which is now worse than HIV. The sad reality is, women in Africa only discover that they have breast cancer when their cancer is at stage three or four, due to lack of awareness and barriers to health services. Stages three and four are advanced stages such that very little can be done,” she said.
Dr Khupe said early detection was vital in that treatment can be sought and can be effective.
She said as part of the initiative to raise awareness of breast cancer which is commemorated every year in October there was a need to ensure that both men and women were screened.
“We are calling on all women and men to do self-breast examination every month and to get cancer screening because breast cancer does not only affect women. It affects men as well. Once cancer is detected early it can be treated,” she said.
Dr Khupe said she was a living testimony that one can be treated successfully for cancer.
“I am a living testimony as I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and here I am today totally cured. I discovered my cancer early and I went through treatment and this is my eighth year now,” she said.
TKCF joins other major breast cancer charities and organisations across the world to increase awareness on breast cancer and other cancers which include cervical cancer, as early detection saves lives.
The foundation was started in October 2012 after the former Deputy Prime Minister was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2011.
For the past seven years since its inception, the TKCF has conducted cancer awareness programmes not only in October but throughout the whole year especially in rural areas.
She said the foundation will continue to do awareness programmes, advocate for cancer treatment so that it is accessible, available and affordable.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world every October, helps to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of the disease.
According to the World Health Organisation there is insufficient knowledge on the cause of breast cancer, therefore early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control.