Stakeholders intensify breast cancer awareness in rural communities

By Gay Matambo

Stakeholders have intensified awareness campaigns on breast cancer which remains the second most common cancer among women in Zimbabwe.

Grace Dhlamini in Mashulane village of Chiredzi East constituency, narrates how tough it is to battle breast cancer in a rural setup.

“This cancer started in June, I haven’t been able to go for biopsy because I couldn’t afford to go to Harare where the doctor advised me to go. I went to Chiredzi town though I was told to go to Bulawayo or Harare,” she said.

“They said those are the only places I can get help. Before they examine what kind of disease this is, they said they can’t give me medication. So for now I’m just sitting at home but I’m taking some medication for breast care and pills for my leg which is painful and painkillers. I wish to go to Harare and get checked though so that I know what exactly I’m suffering from.”

The disease is not only a burden to patients but carers, who find it difficult to help their loved ones access the much needed medical attention.

“The last time we visited the doctor we were told to go Harare but we couldn’t afford the expenses to date. We have not been able to go there,” Esther Ingwana, Grace’s mother.

Lack of adequate information is another challenge in rural areas.

“My wish is that maybe if we can have more awareness campaigns on breast cancer through roadshows it was going to be better. There are a lot of people in this community who have such ailments but they are not aware that it’s cancer and end up dying,” said Rabson Mashulani, a Councilor.

“Women from low resource settings and those in the low-income class are more likely to present with locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer which has already spread to other organs of the body,” said Dr Brian Dhlandlara, Chiredzi District Medical Officer.

“This is because they have limited access to breast cancer diagnostic services and breast cancer therapeutic services. We should strengthen breast cancer screening in primary health care facilities and secondary health care facilities in district hospitals so that these women can access care quickly.”

According to research, one in eight women in Zimbabwe develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.

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