Cancer can be beaten – Pohamba

Penehupifo Pohamba, former first lady, has urged people to adjust their lifestyles and go for medical check-ups because cancer can be beaten if detected early.

31 October 2018 | Health

Cancer of the reproductive organs is a major public health concern, but can be prevented and controlled through behavioural change, vaccinations, screening and early detection.

This is according to the former first lady Penehupifo Pohamba, who was speaking at the Ongwediva Medipark breast, cervical and prostate cancer awareness campaign at Opuwo in the Kunene Region.

October is a cancer awareness month and Ongwediva Medipark hosts a cancer pink day annually to raise awareness about the disease. This year's event took place on Monday and the former first lady is the patron.

Pohamba said cancer can be treated effectively when detected early. She therefore urged the public to know the early signs of cancer, so that they can go to clinics and hospitals to be tested and start treatment early.

“We should strive to increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment, as well as the palliative care for this disease. We should also promote comprehensive cancer control programmes as part of a national cancer control plan.

“We should not stop at just raising awareness of these cancers, but we also should aim to take action to save lives,” Pohamba said.

“This is a plea to the government, as well as private institutions. Medipark has taken this initiative seriously and hence significantly contributes financial resources toward the health development of our country.”

Pohamba said breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide and usually does not cause symptoms, but a tumour grows and it can change in look and feel, while cervical cancer develops slowly without symptoms.

She said a lump or thickening of the breast or even a change in the size or shape could be an early sign of breast cancer, while screening for cervical cancer is important for all sexually active women up to the age of 60.

“Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is very high in women in Africa and the prevalence rate should be over 25% by now and over 99% of all cervical cancers are caused by (HPV) infection.

“These infections are caused by early sexual intercourse, multiple sexual partners or one person having multiple sexual partners. This is further activated by sexually transmitted infections, including Aids infection and tobacco smoking,” Pohamba said.

She said men need to be educated about prostate cancer's early symptoms, so they can have early screenings, especially men above the age of 45.

Pohamba also called on Namibian researchers to collect sufficient data on these cancers.

She said research is important as it will inform government on how to allocate budgets and what appropriate action needs to happen address the disease.

Ongwediva Medipark managing director, Dr Tshali Iithete, said over the past eight years this campaign has grown and has seen more than 3 500 people being screened for breast, cervical and prostate cancers at Ongwediva, Omuthiya, Onemanya and Eenhana.

“The same message echoes - We can, I can! We can overcome the scourge of these cancers afflicting our people, while we say they are preventable, they are treatable, if detected early,” Iithete said.

“We cannot understate the importance of an HPV vaccine to our young girls, in our efforts to combat cervical cancer and emphasise the regular self-examination of breasts. This ought to become a reality, with the collaboration between the public and private (health) sectors.”

ILENI NANDJATO

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