Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 8th September 2023: Cancer ranks as one of the foremost non-communicable diseases in Tanzania, with cervical, breast, and prostate cancer emerging as the three most prevalent types. The Tanzania Comprehensive Cancer Care Project, an innovative initiative spearheaded by the Aga Khan Health Service, Tanzania (AKHS,T) organizes complimentary screening camps in targeted regions across Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. These endeavours are in alignment with government efforts aimed at early cancer detection. The TCCP team employs mobile clinics to reach and serve remote, underserved communities effectively. During their most recent mission from the 17th to the 27th of August, the TCCP team visited Sengerema, an isolated district in Mwanza, and Buchosa councils. They provided screening for cervical, breast, and prostate cancer to 1,291 individuals in these locations.
Over the past five years, the incidence of cancer has shown a noticeable increase. In 2022, the country witnessed more than 26, 000 cancer related deaths. However, it is essential to recognize that early diagnosis and prompt treatment can prevent 30-50% of all cancer cases when the cancer has not yet spread throughout the body. Sadly, late diagnoses contribute to a higher rate of registered cancer deaths in Africa compared to the incidence of cancer itself, a contrast to other global regions.
Because patients are often diagnosed at advanced stages, a significant 80-90% of cancer cases are identified when the disease has already progressed, resulting in substantially lower survival rates. Furthermore, Cancer takes a toll on patients’ quality of life, as they frequently endure distress, pain, and other side effects from their treatments. The economic burden of cancer is substantial, affecting both the patients and healthcare system due to the high cost of treatment. At the societal level, cancer can hinder workplace productivity through disease-related absenteeism. However, with the prevention efforts of the Tanzania Cancer Care Project (TCCP), patients could experience shorter treatments periods, faster recoveries, and improved survival rates. This initiative holds the potential to alleviate the impact of cancer onboth individuals and society as a whole.
Initiated in 2022 by The Aga Khan Health Service (AKHS) TCCP is a four-year evidence-based, high-quality, endeavour established as a collaborative private-public partnership. It receives funding from Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF). TCCP unites several key entities, including AKHS Tanzania, the Ocean Road Cancer Institute, Bugando Medical Centre, AKF Tanzania, and Aga Khan University, all operating under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government. Technical support for the initiative is provided by Institute Curie, the French foundation for cancer research. This first-of-its kind initiative was established to enhance the quality, accessibility, and capacity of cancer care services. It complements government efforts like the National Cancer Control Strategy (2013-2022) which seeks to promote early detection and integrate cancer screening into routine wellness activities. Thus far, TCCP has successfully trained more than 330 healthcare professionals, bolstered the capacity of over 400 community health care workers, and distributed over 3,000 books and 5,000 Information, Communications and Education (ICE) material.
Since its launch in 2019, TCCP has sensitized over 4.45 million people, tested 673, 000 people, and treated 29, 700 people across Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. From 17th – 27th August 2023, TCCP travelled to three areas in Sengerema and Buchosa, Mwanza (Ngoma mtimba, Kagunga, Sengerema town, Lushamba, Kome, Bupandwa, Bukobwa and Nyehunge) to provide free screenings for cervical, breast, and prostate cancer. 1291 people were screened in total, 876 females and 415 males. The aim of TCCP is to screen 1, 682, 709 community members by the end of the project.
TCCP’s proactive measures are in harmony with the government’s agenda of making regular cancer screening a common practice within the areas covered by the project. Even as the project approaches its conclusion by the end of this year, TCCP remains committed to organizing screening camps across Tanzania. Notably, the positive outcomes achieved by TCCP have triggered a ripple effect of cancer-related investments in Tanzania. A prime example of this is the construction of a cutting edge Cance Care Centre at the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, which collaborates closely with Ocean Road Cancer Institute to deliver top-tier care to cancer patients.