PLANS are underway to deploy at least 400 health experts overseas for specialised courses on cancer treatment as an urgent national intervention necessitated by the rapid increase in the number of such cases reported each year.
The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Ally Rashid, said in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday that the government was working hard to increase local expertise to tame the killer disease, which costs lives of at least 40,000 Tanzanians a year.
Reading the country’s message as the world marked the Cancer Day on Tuesday; Dr Rashid said that over a period of ten years, Tanzania has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of patients seeking treatment at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (OCRI), which calls for more efforts to increase resources to accommodate them.
“Every year, an institute receives more than 5,000 new patients while more than 44,000 patients seek medical care countrywide, leaving over 36,000 others dying. Measures are underway in which at least 100 to 400 doctors will be trained every year to attend to the situation,” he reported.
The minister said increasing the required manpower will go shoulder by shoulder with expansion of service centres countrywide, that will see other referral hospitals than the OCRI also chipping in to provide medical attention to sufferers.
He mentioned the hospitals as Bugando in Mwanza Region, which has just started the services, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), Mbeya and the Mtwara Regional Referral Hospital.
Dr Rashid cited the World Cancer Report 2014, which has just come out with findings on the general world cancer trend, cautioning that the less developed countries, Tanzania included, were ‘’likely to witness the shocking deaths of cancer patients to the tune of 80 per cent of the present deaths by 2025.”
The incidence of cancer globally, according to the report, has increased in just four years from 12.7 million in 2008 to 14.1 million new cases in 2012, when there were 8.2million deaths. Over the next 20 years, it is expected to hit 25 million a year equivalent to 70 per cent increase.
Cancer cases are expected to surge so alarmingly worldwide in the next 20 years, an imminent ‘human disaster’ that will require a renewed focus on prevention to combat, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The World Cancer Report, produced by the WHO’s specialised cancer agency, predicts new cancer cases will rise from an estimated 14 million in 2012 to 22 million annually within two decades. Over the same period, cancer deaths are tipped to rise from 8.2 million a year to 13 million annually.
An infection, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), still accounts for more than 85 per cent of all related cases with very little hope for the people to reduce imitation of western life styles, tobacco use habit, alcohol taking – and aggravated by lack of physical exercises.
Dr Rashid said the day should serve as a wake-up call to the people, while the government should be reminded to recognise the growing trend and take immediate action.
It has been suggested that Tanzania should resort to practical solutions to redress the situation, which include developing national cancer control plans.
Other measures are increasing awareness programmes against modifiable risks factors and invigorating screening programmes aimed at decreasing some cancers by at least 25 per cent.