Tanzania is set to develop a cancer registry as part of a new health policy to manage the non-communicable disease.
The country hopes to use the registry to map areas where the disease is most prevalent in order to allocate resources accordingly.
This was revealed during a Medical Training Fellowship, sponsored by the East Africa Development Bank (EADB) for oncologists from Tanzania and Kenya.
The training was conducted by cancer specialists from the London-based Royal College of Physicians (RCP), Dar es Salaam’s Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) and Kenya’s main referral Kenyatta National Hospital.
Speaking during the seminar, Dr Nazima Darsee, head of academic unit at the ORCI, said that the population-based register would help reveal the burden of the disease in the country.
“Currently, we are forced to rely on hospital-based cancer registries and other centres that treat cancer across Tanzania. The problem is further compounded by the fact that Tanzania has a deficiency of pathologists,” she said, adding that the doctors are only found in the few treatment facilities including Muhimbili National Hospital, ORCI and some private hospitals.
Dr Khamza Maunda, a clinical oncologist at ORCI, estimated that Tanzania registers about 50,000 new cancer patients every year. However, ORCI, which is the largest cancer referral institution in the country, is only able to attend to 5,000 or 10 per cent of the patients, he added.
The programme, now in its second year, intends to equip 600 doctors from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda in four years.
Run by the RCP and the British Council, the aim is to increase early detection, research and treatment of cancer and neurological disorders by increasing number of qualified medical practitioners in public service specialising in treating the diseases.
The training comes at a time when the number of cancer cases worldwide is expected to surge by 75 per cent during the next two decades according to WHO Cancer Research.
Deaths from cancers have been on the rise in the East African region especially due to lack of treatment facilities and expertise for prevention, early detection and treatment.