Cancer – Matter of Great Concern

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In the 21st century and after fifty years of independence, despite the fact that Malawi is among the developing nations of the world, having only two qualified cancer doctors – oncologists one stationed at Queens in Blantyre and one at Kamuzu Central Hospital is a matter of great concern.

Having gone through fifty years of self-rule, Malawi should be in a better position to take matters of healthy for its citizens with seriousness.

The meaningful existence of any nation elsewhere in the world depends largely on having healthy citizens. Citizens are a capital of any nation, hence the need to provide life saving health facilities at any cost.

What role does ministry of health have in a country like Malawi, if it is not to plan and organize strategies for health including identifying shortfalls of doctors in ensuring that all departments in the field of medicine are properly filled? Is it ideal for a country like Malawi to concentrate only in producing thousands of midwives?

We very much appreciate, the role of the midwives, but the by-products of that field are the people who are born on daily basis, and may need treatment of well – qualified oncologist in the journey of their living with life. There is need to balance the availability of doctors in the healthy sector.

It is not even known, while Malawians are patiently and painfully waiting, to have proportional number of oncologist, that among those currently studying in medical schools of Malawi or abroad, there could be those specializing to become oncologists.

Many Malawians may find it difficult to understand, the reason why the number of oncologists in Malawi stagnant at two, yet cancer patients are diagnosed hourly in Malawi’s rural and urban hospitals.

If a referral hospital like Zomba for example, so too, of course many of them may not have its own oncologists, who will take the responsibility for the care of a patient from the moment of a cancer diagnosis throughout the course of the disease.

It leaves the minds of many Malawians to wonder, whether a painful and delicate disease that of cancer, patients in both rural and urban areas of Malawi are getting the required high-quality, compassionate care.

It is understandably very horrible for cancer patients to be told to leave the hospital because the available personnel are challenged to treat the disease and that the only destination for the cancer patients is languishing with agony at home.

Sources of medical studies reveal that, a person with cancer is often treated by a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, meaning a group of doctors who specialize in different areas of oncology. It is said that this approach is used because cancer treatment frequently involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

This is a clear indication the two we have, may not have specialized the entire discipline. Definitely, they cannot be specialists in surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy at once.

In other ways, we might have them as those who may provide the chemotherapy and radiation, but they may not go as far as surgery. What picture do we have at this quagmire? Is it hopeless for cancer patients in Malawi, despite that God Almighty looks after them dearly.

Perhaps the golden question could be, at what level of retrogressive is Malawi standing? If it can only manage to produce two for the 13 plus million people of Malawi, the gap to reach the level of providing multidisciplinary team to treat cancer patients is perhaps another complete journey of fifty years.

The issues of cancer might be held in a simple tone to some people, but for those who lost their loved ones, relatives, friends, neighbours, workmates etc understand well the pain that goes by cancers.

While the status quo remain dismally as such, we need to know that, as a country we need gynaecologic oncologist, who focuses on the care and treatment of woman with gynaecologic cancers, such as uterine cancer and cervical cancer. We need to have paediatric oncologist specialized in the treatment of children with cancer. We need to have enough haematologists – oncologist, specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the blood, such as leukaemia, lymphomas, and myelomas.

It is high time, that our medical students consider specializing in areas where there are shortfalls in the medical field and high on the shortfalls are doctors to treat cancer patients. Thousands of Malawians die of cancers due to lack of specialists in our hospitals.

Should the lives of cancer diagnosed patients in Malawi continue to be lost, due to lack of specialists to provide surgical treatment to cancer patients?

It is worthwhile then for government of Malawi, perhaps with the help of the private sector, to put deliberate strategies and plans to sponsor as many medical students, with the focus of specializing to become oncologists.

The need for Malawi, to have as many oncologists, is the need of life saving situation. The late it is fulfilled, the worse the situation remains, for today and the future cancer patients.