Health rights activist Martha Kwataine has asked government to increase access to health workers and equipment in public hospitals if more women are to benefit from early detection to prevent cancers.
Kwataine, who is executive director of Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), was speaking at the discussion to mark the end of a breast cancer awareness walk, Think Pink, held in Lilongwe on Saturday.
She said much as prevention is better than cure, this cannot be achieved when equipment for detecting breast cancer such as mammogram machines is not available at district hospitals for the rural masses to access.
Said Kwataine: “To prevent cancer, the best is to increase access to examination of all cancers if we can have access to public health facilities. Government has an obligation to provide quality healthcare services to its citizens and we need to make sure our government health facilities have equipment as well as healthcare workers, and that is why when nurses and doctors are not being recruited, we scream.”
She further urged government to train as many doctors in oncology, especially with the ongoing construction of a new cancer centre in Lilongwe, which will need specialist doctors to run.
Currently, there are six mammogram machines yet to be installed at public hospitals and Malawians are making use of private facilities which are not cheap.
Head of non-communicable diseases in the Ministry of Health, Beatrice Mwagomba, said all public health facilities were mandated to provide cancer screening, especially for cervical cancer.
Three cancer survivors told their stories of how cancer was detected and treated, among them Magdalena Zgambo and Blandina Khondowe, who pioneered Think Pink in Malawi.
Zgambo and Blandina were both diagnosed late due to inexperienced health workers and lack of equipment in public hospitals.
Khondowe stressed the importance of providing timely treatment after diagnosis to prevent unnecessary deaths.