Cancer In Africa: Focus on Prevention
Healthcare in Africa has focused on fighting infectious disease, but more attention is being given to the continent's increasing problem with cancer. The continent lags behind in information, infrastructure and resources to deal with the magnitude of the disease.
Crane: In Africa, healthcare has focused on fighting infectious diseases. But over the past two decades, cancer has become a growing concern.
Masalu: The cancer state in many African countries is very poor.
Crane: Dr. Nestory Masalu is an oncologist from Tanzania who participated in the National Cancer Institute's cancer prevention course in July. Dr. Masalu says Africa faces a cancer crisis.
Masalu: Because the majority of the cases arrive for medical attention at a very late stage.
Crane: Dr. Masalu says Africa lacks information and resources on cancer.
Masalu: People, they don't know what the cancer is. They don't know the risks associated with cancer. So the information is not there. And then two, the early detection is not there. The facilities that can deliver the best treatment are not there. Like Tanzania until last year had only one cancer center, and the country has a population of about forty million inhabitants.
Crane: Five months ago, Dr. Masalu started Tanzania's second oncology clinic, in Mwanza, the city where he grew up. He also started a screening program in the villages.
Masalu: We will be going to the health centers in the villages. We will screen, give the pre-information to the village leaders, to the religious leaders, so that women will come, who are eligible to be screened. We will screen them. And train local staff where we go.
Crane: One problem is that few African oncologists practice in Africa. Dr. Masalu says he is one of only a handful of oncologists in his native Tanzania. Most African oncologists trained in the west don't return home. Dr. Masalu came back to Tanzania last year after his medical training in Italy. He says prevention is the key to fighting cancer in Africa, especially since the costly treatments for late-stage disease used in the West are out of reach for most Africans.
Masalu: For the time that I've been in Italy, five years, I saw only one case of cervical cancer. When I reached my country, 70 percent of the cases were cervical cancer, advanced. So I kind of changed my idea, because in Italy I was more someone who relied on treatment. But when I went to Africa, I changed my mind completely and said I think prevention is the key in Africa. So this course actually came at the right time.
Crane: Dr. Masalu was one of several international participants in the five-week summer course sponsored by the cancer prevention fellowship program. People came from thirty-six countries for the course. This is Kristine Crane at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Kristine Crane
Sound Bite: Dr. Nestory Masalu
Topic: cancer, Africa, cancer prevention course