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Cancer centre nears completion

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The government is halfway towards completing the $15 million National Cancer Treatment Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, said in a brief released Wednesday that, overall, construction progress is at 50 percent and that the ministry is ready for the opening of the centre.

“From the human resource perspective, the ministry, in readiness for the opening of the centre, has trained and is still in the process of training different cadres for the centre, including: radiation therapy technologists, laboratory technologists, pharmacists, medical technicians, medical oncologists, nurses and medical physicists,” reads the brief in part.

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The need for the hospital came after research conducted by the ministry revealed that only less than five percent of cancer patients in Malawi had access to radiotherapy treatment.

In addition, the research found that there was 10,300 cancer cases presented to public hospitals in 2009, which is predicted to rise to as high as 15,000 cases in 2018.

Patients have to travel to South Africa or as far as India to receive treatment. Currently, there are 63 patients on a waiting list to receive medical aid abroad.

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“Cancer remains a public health problem in Malawi and the trend has been increasing overtime,” Malango said.

While the new treatment centre will help reduce the challenges of treatment, there remains the issue of access for rural communities and public awareness on cancer treatment across the country.

According to a study conducted in 2017 by Racquel E. Kohler and others titled ‘Breast Cancer Knowledge, Behaviours, and Preferences in Malawi’, less than half of women were aware of what breast cancer was while only 20 percent of the women were aware of clinical examinations.

Common barriers included not knowing where to access CBE and transportation difficulties.

But Malango, in an email correspondence, said the district referral system will provide transportation services to rural patients and awareness campaigns for cancer treatment are in the pipeline.

With a $13.1 million loan from Opec Fund for International Development and funding from the government, construction is expected to be completed by September this year.

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