#CancerTalkWithMichelle: Cancer Awareness In The Times Of A COVID-19 Pandemic

THE world over, focus has shifted towards managing, treating and preventing COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 has literally overshadowed other ailments including Cancer, one of the leading causes of death in Zimbabwe which is currently killing more people than  HIV, Tuberculosis (TB), Malaria and COVID-19 combined.

By Michelle Madzudzo

However, a dearth of data, shortage of testing equipment, lack of proven treatments or vaccine  and the speed at which the coronavirus spreads has resulted in the virus being portrayed as a much bigger threat compared to all time ravenous cancers such as the carcinomas and lymphomas at least for the time being.

Cancer is the real devil and remains one of our biggest problems. During the lockdown period  a number of celebrities and well know people succumbed to cancer. The American Black Legend Chadwick Bosman, Patson Dzamara and Lazzarus Boora known as Gringo to mention but a few have all succumbed to cancer either of the stomach and or Colon cancer.

As a radiographer and due to my experience, I have come face to face with various cancers and i personally know how lethal that animal is. Somehow because of the widespread pandemic, patients may start to fear a COVID-19 diagnosis more than cancer.  As a result, potential cancer patients’ minds are now only mindful of COVID-19 symptoms which include fever of at least 38 degrees Celsius, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches and pains, sore throat and loss of smell and taste. Other COVID-19 symptoms may include tiredness, loss of appetite and coughing up sputum. If you experience any of these symptoms in Zimbabwe call toll free line 2019 and get help.

Of late there seem to be lack of compliance and regard for COVID-19 regulations but let’s not get complacent, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet. Let’s all continue to practice social distancing, wearing masks and always wash our hands with soap and water or sanitise them.

Like many countries, our health care and other social care including primary health care have been directed to optimally manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the media’s special focus on COVID-19 over other health issues, we should carefully and precisely measure the impact of these cumulative medical and social changes on cancer outcomes .

Consequently, many cancer activities have been relegated to second priority. It has put a damper on various activities that would otherwise campaign to raise awareness of cancer amongst the general populace of Zimbabwe.  The consequences of lockdown measures and displacement of cancer awareness and screening activities in the general population could have a significant impact on cancer outcomes in the long run.

As we continue to endeavour in the fight against COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, let us also bear in mind that being in a pandemic does not mean cancer has taken a break, no. Cancer robs the country of the most productive age (30-70 years old) posing greater challenge to human and health development.

It is estimated that cancer will double over the next 20 to 40 years, having a great negative impact on developing nations, of which Zimbabwe is sadly also part of. The cancer epidemic unfortunately will not stop because of a COVID-19 pandemic. In a resource constrained country like Zimbabwe, the most cost-effective way of reducing the burden of cancer is by strengthening preventive efforts through awareness raising.

Are you aware that symptoms attributed to COVID-19 such as a nagging cough, a sore throat or even shortness of breath could also be possible signs and symptoms of certain types of cancer. It is imperative that general populace is wary of these issues so as to get an early diagnosis and probably avoid worse health outcomes as a result of cancer.”

While we are very much cognisant of all COVID-19 symptoms, let us not downplay the following  Seven signs and symptoms that may be  suggestive of cancer in general

  • A sore throat that does not heal
  • Nagging cough or hoarseness of voice
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere
  • Obvious change in a wart or mole in size or appearance
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from breast, penis or vagina
  • Change in bladder and bowel movement, constant constipation or diarrhea

Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms and  if they persist, the  earlier you get a diagnosis, and seek early treatment, the higher your chances of cure and survival.

Cancer awareness is uniquely important  and let not the novel coronavirus erode the gains we had attained towards reducing and eliminating cancer from our societies.

About the Author:

Madzudzo Michelle Chishamiso is a therapy radiographer at Parirenyatwa hospital. She is also the founder and president for Talk Cancer Zimbabwe Trust and she writes on HealthTimes in her capacity as a radiographer. Michelle can be contacted on Mobile 0774866873, email mcmadzudzo@gmail.com


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