Cancer is taking an enormous human toll around the world and is a growing threat in low to middle income countries. Cancer is the world’s leading cause of death, with approximately 14 million new cases every year and 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012 (Word Cancer Report, 2014), followed by heart disease and stroke.
For some reason, there is a common misperception that cancer is “not an African problem”. In reality, the risk of dying from many cancers is much higher in Africa than it is in developed countries – in fact, the mortality rate from cancer is around 80%. Many African countries lack treatment facilities and programs for education, prevention and early detection that can save lives.
As one of the poorest African countries, due to lack of preventive measures and limited access to healthcare, mortality rates because of cancer are very high in Tanzania. The projection data indicate that each year in Tanzania there are around 100 new cancer patients in every 100,000 population. While according to the census of 2013 Tanzania had a population of 49.25 million people, according to the latest UN estimate of July 2015, it has 52,290,795, people. The country currently therefore sees between 45,000 to 50.000 new cancer cases every year and according to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare 80% of the country’s cancer victims die each year.
Cancer therefore is a major public health problem in Tanzania. About 32.5% of all deaths due to cancer occur among people below 60 years of age. For women in this age group, cancer is responsible for about 43% of deaths. Delay in diagnosis is a substantial problem for cancer patients in Tanzania and the majority of them die during the first year after being diagnosed. Across the country, about 95% of cancer patients die at home and only 5% in hospital. It is estimated that 25% of Tanzania’s population is at the risk of cancer.
Missionaries of Compassion plans to implement a comprehensive cancer care program in the central part of Tanzania which will include all the components of cancer care like prevention; screening and early detection, diagnosis and treatment by establishing Good Samarian Cancer Hospital at Ifakara. The existing cancer treatment centres in the country are situated very far for most people of this area and are not accessible to them. A cancer hospital at a quasi geographically centre of the country like Ifakara, will give access to much more people for the diagnosis of cancer and for treatment. This would in turn considerably reduce mortality rates due to cancer in the region. Our aim is to give service to the maximum number of poor patients who do not have access to the only two cancer treatment centres which are located in faraway places.
Our immediate goal will therefore be the construction of Good Samaritan Cancer hospital in the vicinity of the St. Francis Hospital and Medical College at Ifakara.