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Health Minister Announces Ambitious Plan to Revamp Cancer Treatment Services in Zambia

Hon. Sylvia Masebo, Minister of Health, unveiled an ambitious plan to overhaul cancer treatment services at the Cancer Diseases Hospital during a comprehensive statement presented to the National Assembly. This initiative comes amidst rising concerns over cancer prevalence and treatment accessibility in Zambia.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Minister Masebo revealed that Zambia records an average of 15,296 new cancer cases annually, with cervical cancer, Kaposi sarcoma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and esophagus cancer being the most prevalent. Despite being curable, childhood cancers pose significant challenges, with high mortality rates in Zambia.

The Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka, the country’s sole government facility specialized in comprehensive cancer treatment, sees approximately 3,000 newly diagnosed patients annually. However, the hospital faces a critical setback as its radiotherapy equipment remains non-functional, depriving over 60% of cancer patients of vital treatment.

In response, the Zambian government, through the Ministry of Health, unveiled a transformative plan to rehabilitate and re-equip the Cancer Diseases Hospital with modern infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment. The project, anticipated to commence in April 2024, will see the construction of a new radiotherapy bunker and the installation of four Linear Accelerators, among other essential facilities.

Minister Masebo emphasized the government’s commitment to restoring radiotherapy services at the hospital, stating that the first linear accelerator is expected to be operational by September 2024. The project, with a total cost estimated at USD 30,814,227.31, aims to establish the Cancer Diseases Hospital as a regional center of excellence for cancer detection and treatment.

Acknowledging the interim measure of referring patients abroad for radiotherapy, Minister Masebo assured that the government would continue this practice until local services are restored. Furthermore, plans are underway for the construction of specialized cancer treatment centers in Ndola and Livingstone, catering to the northern and southern circuits, respectively.

The Minister also outlined various measures aimed at reducing cancer incidence and improving treatment accessibility, including vaccination programs, cancer awareness initiatives, preventive policies on alcohol and tobacco, and investments in healthcare infrastructure and human resources.

As the government strives to combat the rising cancer burden, Minister Masebo reiterated the commitment to ensuring the continuity of chemotherapy, nuclear medicine, and cancer surgical services at the Cancer Diseases Hospital during the rehabilitation phase.

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