DAR residents are turning up for free breast and prostate cancer screening in an on-going campaign financially supported by an Italian Non-Government Organisation, Associazione Ruvuma Onlus.
Over 1,000 residents have been screened for breast and prostate cancer up to yesterday in a pilot phase of the campaign run by Tanzania’s affiliate of the Italian NGO, Associazione Ruvuma Onlus (Tanzania).
Thirty-four people among 1,031 screened from 14/12/2019 to 17/2/2020, were found with cancer symptoms and advised to seek specialized help at Muhimbili Hospital or Ocean Road Cancer Institute, for further tests, after counseling. Among those screened 623 are women, 408 men.
According to Associazione Ruvuma Onlus (Italy), president, Rodrigo Rodriquez, the main objective of the screening is to prevent breast and prostate cancer. “We want to raise awareness on the value of prevention. We hope to contribute to making the people know that they should screen for cancer regularly. When discovered early, most forms of cancer are treatable,” he noted.
Unlike traditional campaigns where mostly only women are urged to screen for breast cancer, the Executive Secretary of the Associazone Ruvuma Onlus (Tanzania), Happy Rwechungura, noted: “This is a novel, holistic campaign. We know both breast cancer and prostate cancer have become a huge menace, we want to encourage both men and women to come and test.”
Associazione Ruvuma Onlus is working in the campaign with the Catholic Church, the archdiocese of Dar es Salaam. She said at the start of the campaign, more women than men came out for the test. But recently, men’s attendance has picked up, after being told of modern ways of testing prostate cancer.
“At Mbezi Luis station, we had 47 males and 36 females. This shows the dynamics are changing. Earlier in 4 stations, we had no males turning up to check up” she noted.
The free mobile health screening clinic so far has screened residents at Gdb Social Centre Tegeta, Tegeta Mission dispensary, Consolata Dispensary-Mbagala, Cardinal Rugambwa HospitalUkonga , Vijibweni Hospital, Jangwani-Kariakoo, Antonia Verna Dispensary, Kawe, Mbezi Luis Market and Tabata.
She said she was hopeful that after the pilot project, which is free, more Tanzanians would be aware of the need to regularly screen. For the project to be sustainable, in the future, we plan to charge 20,000/- for each test.
“This amount is very low compared to what most hospitals across Tanzania charge for such tests,” she says. Using the same mobile van, the not for profit organization sometimes back had equipped it with a mammography machine, but members of the public were not willing to pay for the services.
“Using the small mobile camper we tried to convince people to screen at a small fee. There was too little interest, and this time our partners, led by Mr. Rodrigo Rodriquez, have financed for a limited time, some free screenings,” she noted.
She said they were using the free screening to advocate Tanzanians the importance of regular checkups, even for those in low-income status. “It’s very true for some Tanzanians paying 20,000/- just for a check-up while the same can be used to feed the family for a week, is a hard choice,” she notes.
We are working in the future to charge between 10,000/- to 20,000/-,” she said. Association Ruvuma ONLUS has taken the long road of raising funds to ensure the less privileged people are able to screen for the two forms of cancer.
“We are taking every opportunity to teach members of the public to develop the habit of checking up on their health, ‘’ she noted. “Getting money to screen for free breast and prostate cancer has not been easy. We thank our partners, Associazione Ruvuma Onlus-Italy, who have stretched their budget in order to make sure the project takes off,” she said.
Association Ruvuma Onlus Tanzania is looking for sponsors to make the project more sustainable. “We are asking Tanzanians to donate for the running of the project. This will make sure the state of art machines we have for checking cancer, will help as many Tanzanians as possible.
“So far we have done the screening in only 16 stations in Dar es Salaam, still we have a long way to go, ‘’ she noted. “We are happy that many people are getting aware of the need and the importance of screening. Our biggest challenge is getting funds to run the project for the long term,” she noted.
Associazione Ruvuma Onlus is registered in Tanzania as a non-profit organization that works closely with the government to provide better access to health and professional training, mainly through volunteerism.