Unam Opens Cancer Facility in Katutura

THE University of Namibia, through its School of Medicine, is setting up Namibia’s first diagnostic facility for breast, cervical and prostate cancer in Hakahana, Windhoek.

The facility comes in the wake of the African First Ladies’ 8th edition of the Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference organised by the Forum of African First Ladies Against Breast amp Cervical Cancer and the Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation.

Unam will work with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Cancer Association of Namibia to vaccinate against viruses that cause cancer of the cervix. It will initially offer free walk-in screening services.

Unam vice-chancellor Lazarus Hangula says the facility is part of a broader strategy by the insitution to take services closer to the people.

Hangula expressed optimism that the new facility would bring about greater access to cancer screening services and save lives.

“The greatest challenge in dealing with cancer is to prevent it through early diagnosis. If we catch it early we can limit its spread and prolong lives,” he said.

Professor Peter Nyarango, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences said Unam would install a mammography machine, an ultrasound machine and other facilities for digital pictures to diagnose breast cancer.

“A little later, we will do diagnosis for other cancers. We will not be treating people at first,” Nyarango said, adding that Unam was working towards using modern scientific methods to freeze cancer tumours and will employ a surgeon, a radiologist and a few nurses to run the facility.

It is expected that the facility would train personnel and serve qualified doctors and nurses who may require refresher courses to enable a seamless roll out of screening services throughout the country.

The next cancer screening facility will be set up in Oshakati.

Professor Philip Odonkor, the Associate Dean of the Unam School of Medicine, said the location of the facility in Katutura is ‘symbolic’ and puts paid to the global norm where, until recently, health care has been developed around people who can afford it.

Hakahana is an impoverished informal settlement with limited running water and poor sanitary facilities. It is densely populated by people who fall into the low income category.

Odonkor called for “education, education and education to create awareness”, saying people must be assisted to know more about themselves and determine what to do next should they detect problems.

Nyarango said the role of a medical school is to develop models to help ordinary people overcome systematic limitations that jinx access to quality health care.

“With respect to prostate cancer, health experts say that every man is at risk of developing it, with the lifetime risk estimated at almost 100%. The risk is particularly high if there is a family history of prostate cancer. Experts recommend that every man above 35 years of age should go for regular check-up, ideally once a year,” he said.

In a major breakthrough, medical scientists recently discovered a vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV) which protects against cervical cancer if administered to girls aged 12 to 13 years. While experts say it is effective, it is not yet widely administered.

Experts aocate that girls who have reached puberty should start going for regular check-ups for breast cancer. Experts also say that ideally, young girls should be trained to examine themselves for breast cancer symptoms.

Source : The Namibian