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Herbalists cause 80 percent cancer patients to delay treatment


Harare (New Ziana) – More than 80 percent of cancer patients present late at hospitals because they first seek treatment at herbalists, who delay referring them on further management, an official has said.

Head of Oncology at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Dr Nothando Mutizira recently raised concern over the proliferation of herbalists, who she alleges prevent 80 percent of patients from seeking medical treatment early.

Parirenyatwa Hospital is one of the only two government centres that offer radiotherapy for cancer treatment.

Mutiziras said after the herbalists fail to treat the disease, most patients who would have been diagnosed return to hospitals with the cancer at stage 3 or 4.

“Unfortunately, 80 percent of our patients present with a stage 3-4 disease, and once patients present with advanced disease, the cure rate and success stories are much lower,” she said.

“I am not saying we have no success stories, we do have some cancers that are detected at an early stage, which is about 20 percent of our patients, and in these instances, you do get a much better survival rate. But the bulk of our patients unfortunately do not end up doing so well because they come very late for various reasons,” she said.

She attributed the situation to lack of awareness of cancer treatment and the influx of herbalists in the country.

“So usually by the time the patients come to see an oncologist their cancer is more advanced than when it was actually diagnosed because they were using alternative medicines before seeking medical attention,” she explained.

Parirenyatwa has the largest radio oncology centre meant to offer cervical cancer screening and treatment of other cancers.

New Ziana

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