Why cancer screening is everyone’s responsibility
Discussing cancer is not a welcomed subject as it is not a cheap disease to deal with. Despite this, cancer remains the second leading cause of death worldwide after cardiovascular diseases.
The 2018 World Health Organization Global Cancer facts and figures-4th edition defines cancer as a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells, whose spread if not controlled can lead to death.
Although the causes of cancer remain largely unknown particularly for those that occur during childhood, there are many other factors known to increase the risk. These are either modifiable such as tobacco-use and inactive life style or unmodifiable such as inherited genetic mutations, hormones and immune conditions.
However, the good news is that all cancers can be treated and cured if diagnosed early.
The government has recommended cancer screening in all its health facilities and the NGO health centers and at ROM, we are taking strides in diagnosis and treatment of cervical and breast cancer.
However, nationwide, few women below the age of 49 years turn up to be screened and those screened and diagnosed with cancer fail to start treatment for fear of the side effects that they may suffer thereafter. In most cases, patients move in for rehabilitation to the same facilities where they feared to go to at an early stage and yet the numbers are overwhelming as the patient-nurse ratio is usually approximately 1:20. They thus live such difficult lives during the palliative phase that they desire to die in the next few days.
I urge all female Ugandans to go and screen for cervical cancer at the nearest health facility. All men should get circumcised because research indicates that they are the ones who transmit the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer.
I ask the government to increase the supply of HVP screening tools even down deep the villages as it is easier to use by all health workers.
I also urge young girls to stop engaging themselves in sexual intercourse at an early age. All parents should immunize their girl children who turn nine years of age and respect the follow up the immunization schedule. That way, we shall be able to curb the spread of the HPV.
By Mary Namugalu, a nurse at Reach Out Mbuya Community Health Initiative.