Cancer Day: How far have we come to fight cancer?

Monday February 4 2019

Dr. Christopher Peterson

Dr. Christopher Peterson 

Happy world cancer day my dear readers! I dedicate today’s greetings mostly to our loved ones who are courageously fighting this disease, and to the souls that cancer stole their breaths before this day.

Yesterday, a friend of mine who is a cancer survivor posted a photo on his social media handle with a big smile on his face captioning: “Today is my last chemotherapy session and I can’t wait to celebrate tomorrow. Off you go cancer.”

You can imagine how this day means to cancer survivors like him, whom after several torturing rounds of chemotherapy, he is now through and it obviously feels like he has gotten his life back.

How far have we come?

According to statistics, in previous years, cancer was more of a death sentence! It was very rare for a cancer patient to survive. Treatment modalities were very few, compared to the present scenario.

Survivorship was poor due to not-so advanced treatment options and poor awareness of the diseases among the people themselves; but today, my friend whom I mentioned about, represents thousands of cancer patients who successfully overcame cancer.

This is thanks to the various initiatives taken by our associated institutions for investing in researches and other ways of disease eradication. At least even though the disease has constantly been there, the survivorship has dramatically increased in recent years.

We shouldn’t sit on our laurels

This brings a clear picture that we have so far made a significant step in fighting cancer, but there are always questions that hit us; are we anywhere close to winning the battle against cancer? Does our initiatives to fight cancer really count? If not, where are we going wrong? If yes, do we continue with the initiatives?

For quite some time now, I have looked at cancer fighting strategies and realised that we still have a mountain to climb. Let’s not sit on our laurels. Yet at times I wonder if the approaches we have been using so far will enable us to turn victorious in this war against cancer eradication.

It was encouraging to learn, early last year that our country, Tanzania had for the first time achieved a historical milestone to roll out the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

This vaccine protects and prevents against the types of HPV that includes cervical cancer, the second most occuring cancer among women globally.

As a medic I strongly applaud this initiative by the ministry of health.

During the first ever ‘MwananThought Leadership Forum’, held last year on non-communicable diseases, I asked the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Hon. Ummy Mwalimu just how far the rolling out of HPV vaccine was successful.

She confessed that although it had few challenges, for instance, rising of misconceptions among the people on the effectiveness of the vaccine, which I believe, it was due to illiteracy and lack of knowledge, she assured that the campaign was more than 60 per cent successful.

On this cancer day however, I want to give a kind reminder to the government that I remember the same last year, the government declared to do a cancer registry as part of a new health policy to manage the disease.

The country hoped to use the registry to map areas where cancer is most prevalent in order to allocate resources accordingly. I’m convinced this cancer registry would be impactful and I humbly ask the government to reconsider about implementing it.

On this cancer day, I would like to remind readers once again to eat healthy and exercise daily.