As a result of Malawi’s first specialized training program for health workers, women in rural areas of the country are receiving education on how to diagnose breast cancer. The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce the prevalence of the disease.
Many nations in Sub-Saharan Africa struggle with high death rates caused by breast cancer. Unfortunately, the disease is frequently identified at an advanced stage, and inadequate treatment options are not readily available.
Breast cancer is the third most frequent cancer seen in women in Malawi, and unfortunately, survival rates from the time of diagnosis are very poor. According to research conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the likelihood of a patient surviving beyond 18 months is less than ten percent.
Training for frontline health workers to deal with the strain is being provided by a new initiative run by the Institute of Global Surgery at the institution. Over forty medical professionals have just recently finished the intense breast health training program that lasted three days and was the first of its kind in the country.
“As of right now, almost 24,000 people in the hospital’s catchment area are aware of the symptoms of the disease, and they are coming in large numbers whenever they suspect any anomaly, “Chimembe Health Centre, named Chipiliro Ngolome, located in Malawi.
The term “women” is derived from the Chichewa language, commonly spoken in the area. The name of the project is Akazi, and it comprises three parts: a national breast care assessment, services available in rural clinics, and services available in district and central hospitals.
The training program is designed to give healthcare professionals in rural regions an in-depth understanding of the early diagnosis of breast cancer and the methods for evaluating women experiencing signs of breast cancer.
According to Chipiliro Ngolombe, the nurse in charge at Chimembe Health Centre in Blantyre, who spoke with SciDev.Net, “When we went through this course, we started giving health talks on breast cancer alongside antenatal and others.”
“Because we lacked the necessary information initially, we could not provide any services. Everything we knew was based on what we had been taught in school.
“However, at this time, five of our clinicians and nurses have been trained, and we have also informed male and female patients about the condition.”
According to Ngolombe, clergy members and other community leaders, such as chiefs, have been enlisted to educate people about the disease.
“Now, almost 24,000 people in the hospital’s catchment area are aware of the symptoms of the disease, and they are coming in large numbers when they suspect any anomaly,” he added. “Now that people are aware of the symptoms, the hospital is seeing more patients than ever before.”
According to Ngolombe, in the beginning, people were afraid to participate. Still, today, there is a significant turnout when individuals diagnosed with the condition are taken to a major hospital for further treatment.