In a country devastated by cancer, a comprehensive cancer centre would seem the ultimate solution. In reality, it is only one piece of the care and treatment objective. Awareness and education, while seemingly basic, are proving to be essential in improving the lives of those who are suffering.
The development of the KCMC Cancer Care Centre in Moshi means diagnosis and treatment of cancer are now possible in northern Tanzania. However, patients often arrive at the hospital in Moshi too late, many times at an incurable stage of cancer. Last year, 85 percent of the patients presenting for help at the Cancer Care Center were in stage III or IV.
For those who’ve dedicated their lives to caring for the sick and suffering, this is an unbearable reality.
The question that needed to be answered was “why?” Not surprising, the answer was simple. People living in this vast, desolate region were unaware. They didn’t understand cancer. They weren’t aware that early detection would increase their chances of living. They just didn’t know.
To complicate matters, many health care workers in the region lacked significant knowledge of cancer and were not trained to facilitate referrals.
There was a high need for raising cancer awareness in the population. That meant increasing knowledge about risk factors, symptoms and the possibility of treatment.
PrevACamp | Cancer awareness and education
As a community outreach program, the Prevention and Awareness Campaign (PrevACamp) was developed and implemented in October 2017 to raise awareness, enhance earlier diagnosis and strengthen referrals to KCMC Cancer Care Centre for treatment.
Cancer awareness, early detection and health promotion programs are intended to reach the 70 percent of Tanzanian’s living in rural areas. This population has more difficult access to adequate health care than the urban population.
Scope of programming includes:
• Educational programs about different types of cancer.
• Information about and promotion of the Cancer Care Center at KCMC.
• Identification of patients at an early stage of cancer by screenings for different cancers free of charge.
• Cancer awareness training of community level health care workers
Cancer prevention and awareness days
Cancer prevention and awareness days are events for the population in the Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. The venues for the events vary with the goal of reaching the whole region in a period of 2 years.
The events are promoted in the rural areas by church members, loudspeakers and radio, three days in advance. This ensures that a high proportion of the population can be reached.
Departments from KCMC collaborate with the CCC to during the events. The attendees receive counseling about different cancer types, risk factors, symptoms, screening and treatment.
A special focus is on cervical and breast cancer in women, as well as prostate cancer in men and Burkitt lymphoma in children — the most prevalent cancers in the country. HIV testing is provided as well as cervical, breast and prostate cancer screening.
Year-to-date, there have been six events, with two additional events planned before the end of the year. PrevACamp events are expected to continue in 2019 thanks to generous support of FCCT partners.
PrevATrain | Cancer awareness training for community level health care workers
In addition to raising cancer awareness in the community, there is basic training for health workers to strengthen their cancer awareness and impact of their work in cancer control.
The training is intended to improve the skills and confidence of the health care workers in cancer prevention and health promotion.
The aim is to facilitate early detection of cancer and adequate referral to hospitals for treatment.
PrevATrain is a pilot cancer awareness program and the first cancer awareness training involving community health workers in Tanzania. The training is an important measure to provide sustainability of the efforts by PrevACamp.