Ngwenya warns over increasing cancer cases

Ngwenya said men and women were both equally exposed to common cancers such as prostate and cervical cancer.

MPILO Central Hospital clinical director Solwayo Ngwenya says Zimbabwe is recording an increase in cancer cases and warned citizens to change lifestyles to minimise the risk of getting the disease.

According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 or nearly one in six deaths.

WHO says the most common cancers are breast, lung, colon and rectum and prostate cancers.

“Cancer cases appear to be on the rise,” Ngwenya told Southern Eye Sunday.

“The exact causes of cancer still remain largely unknown, but there are links associated with cancer development such as environmental factors to genetic predisposition, to viral infections, to dietary factors, to lifestyle habits, to exposure to poisons and chemicals.”

Ngwenya said men and women were both equally exposed to common cancers such as prostate and cervical cancer.

A change in lifestyle could minimise risk of getting cancer, he said.

“Lifestyle habits like multiple sexual partners, and early sexual debut exposes women to the oncogenic forms of human papillomavirus, which is associated with cancer of the cervix,” he said.

“Additionally, being infected with HIV would put women at greater risk of developing cervical cancer.”

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, Zimbabwe has the fifth highest burden of cervical cancer in the world.

Over a thousand women die from the disease in the country every year, making it the most common cause of cancer in women.

Zimbabwe has about 105 cervical cancer screening health facilities, mostly located at district level.

Ngwenya said cigarette smoking was not only a factor in the oncogenesis of cervical cancer, but was also associated with the development of lung cancer.

“Smoking is hazardous to our health and should be discouraged,” he said.

“Among Africans, whose bowel is meant to have a lot of roughage, the switch of mainly urbanised and educated Africans predisposes them to developing colon cancer.

“Young girls should delay sexual debut and limit the number of unprotected sexual activities to reduce the risk of acquiring cancer causing human papillomavirus, and HIV, the combination of the two can have rapid and devastating effects.”

In 2018, the country introduced the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, targeting young girls in an effort to nip the cancer in the bud.

Ngwenya urged men to have regular sex with one partner to avoid prostate cancer.

“Good daily exercise, eating healthy, and an enjoyable sex life should be the aim,” he said.

“We can't prevent all cancers, but some since most of the causes remain largely unknown.”

He added: “Both men and women should go for regular cancer screening such as prostate cancer after the age of 45 for men, and cervical cancer screening after the age of 25 for women.

“People should report to their doctors timeously any abnormal signs and symptoms like lumps, bleeding, tiredness etc.”


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