Botswana joined the international community on Monday in commemorating World Cancer Day as activists work towards demystifying the silent killer disease affecting many in a country also struggling to contain the pandemic of HIV.
Held in Francistown this week the commemoration focused on cancer stigmatisation under the theme “Cancer: Did you know? Dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer.” World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that cancer claims 7.6 million lives annually worldwide out of which four million people die prematurely between the ages of 30 to 69 years. Some of the deadliest forms of the disease include skin, breast, cervical, stomach, colon and liver cancer.
In Botswana, cervical cancer is the most common, followed by breast cancer in women while man and children are often affected by cancer of the skin.
The consultant surgeon at Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital, Dr Celest Mbangtang, said common cancer myths and misconceptions include the notion that everyone who develops cancer will die, receiving radiotherapy or chemotherapy will kill the patient, surgery or needle biopsy can disturb cancer cells causing them to spread, cancer is infectious, and that the disease cannot be prevented.
Mbangtang said people must be well informed about the disease in order to understand cancer and how its successful treatment can help save lives. The health expert said early diagnosis is the key to surviving cancer, and urged people to get screens or perform home screenings in the cases of breast cancer.
Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB) chairperson, Thebe Baile, said the myths are many and varied, adding that they all point to a general lack of understanding of cancer, its management and treatment. He said cancer is not just a health issue, but also a health issue with potential to bring about far reaching social, economic, development and human rights implications.