Cancer in Rwanda: Ministry of Health pushes for early detection and lifestyle changes

On 5 February 2024 at 07:05

The Ministry of Health in Rwanda has reported an increase in cancer cases, with breast and cervical cancers being the most prevalent and fatal. In 2022 alone, 26 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, highlighting a concerning trend.

Cervical cancer, a major health concern, has seen progress in preventive measures. Over the past decade, vaccination programs for girls have been underway, with 95% of girls having received the vaccine.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, announced a comprehensive program in the next two years, aiming to test and immunize all women. Those testing positive will promptly begin receiving treatment, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis.

Statistics for 2022 reveal 635 cases of breast cancer, including the unexpected occurrence of 26 cases in men. Cervical cancer recorded 617 cases, while 491 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Dr. Nsanzimana expressed concern about the shift towards younger demographics developing prostate cancer and emphasized the need for nationwide standards to detect potential risks annually.

Dr. Nsanzimana emphasized that 40% of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle modifications, including dietary changes. Stomach and throat cancers are on the rise, and he linked these trends to dietary habits, particularly the consumption of alcohol.

Excessive alcohol intake is associated with damage to local tissues, leading to abnormal changes and growth.

Cancer incidence has been steadily rising since 2018, with 3,275 new cases reported. Although there was a slight decrease in 2020, subsequent years saw an upward trajectory, reaching 5,283 new cancer patients in 2022. Tragically, 1,000 people succumb to cancer in Rwandan hospitals annually.

Dr. Nsanzimana assured that 80% of resources needed for cancer treatment are available in Rwanda. The country boasts the Rwanda Cancer Center at Kanombe Military Hospital and five other facilities equipped for chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Rwanda has a dedicated team of medical professionals, including 12 doctors specializing in cancer treatment, two breast surgeons, two gynecologic oncologist , and 15 oncologists.

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 20 million new cancer cases and 10 million deaths annually.

Alarmingly, projections indicate a 60% increase in cancer patients by 2040, reaching a staggering 30 million people.

The Ministry of Health is actively advocating for preventive measures and early detection to combat this growing health crisis.