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Join hands in fighting cancer – Ben Nangombe

Join hands in fighting cancer – Ben Nangombe

Staff Reporter

THE Executive Director (ED) of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe, has encouraged Namibians to join hands to fight against cancer in the country.

Nangombe said this at the launch of National Cancer Awareness Week at the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) in Windhoek on Monday afternoon. He stated that cancer cases are increasing globally and that the Covid-19 pandemic placed great strain on the already struggling health systems worldwide and Namibia was no exception.

Nangombe further invited Namibians to get rid of the myths surrounding cancers, adding that cancer, commonly known as “Okaankera” in the northern parts of the county, must not be seen as a death sentence.

BUSTING MYTHS: The ED of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe. Photo: Namibia Economist

“OKaankera is the word we grew up with. It is the word the grown-ups would use, and everyone would be scared. When someone was diagnosed with cancer, it would literally mean a death sentence. Now is the time that we must come together as a community to fight cancer and support patients and families affected by this disease,” Nangombe explained.

The National Cancer Registry of Namibia’s cancer registrar, Kushi Tjirirange, explained that underreporting remains a critical challenge in countries where cancer is not a legally reportable disease.

“As can be seen from 2018 – 2019 data, cancers are being underreported and this place an even greater strain on the planning of health management systems in the country to effectively treat patients,” Tjirirange stated.

He therefore lobbied with the ministry to look at the legal framework again to make cancer a reportable disease while CAN underscores the importance of a National Cancer Control Plan.

The National Cancer Awareness Week was initiated by the CAN in August 2015 to address the communication and advocacy challenges experienced with regards to cancer.

“When we have effective legal framework in place, stakeholders commit their support, and we sit around a table to find solutions for the future, we can better manage this disease and save lives,” Rolf Hansen, the Chief Executive Officer of CAN, explained.

He added that the first campaign focused on media engagement, empowering media practitioners to better understand and subsequently report on the disease.

“The aim was to help break the stigma surrounding cancer so that communities at grassroots levels would not just fear the disease, but rather start asking about it, engage on the topic and hopefully be more motivated to participate in screening campaigns,” Hansen stated.

CAN hosts regular screenings nationwide through the National Cancer Outreach Programme, visiting various towns and villages through the year and providing free testing for the most prevalent cancers (breast, cervical, prostate cancers).

Since 2018 the Circle of Hope Programme was added to the outreach programme whereby the psychosocial and emotional aspects of the cancer journey are addressed as well.

During the next two weeks, CAN will host free screening clinics in Windhoek and Swakopmund.

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