Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Cancer Treatment in Zambia Becoming Pathetic, Extremely Worrisome: We Demand Urgent Intervention by Government


By Peter Sinkamba

It is extremely frustrating that in the last 6 months, the service at the only Cancer Diseseas Hospital (CDH) in Zambia located in Lusaka is pathetic due to breakdown of the equipment offering radiation theraphy, and poor restocking of essentials.
This state of affairs implies that more people are likely to die this year going forward, unless urgent measures are put in place to repair the equipment and restock the essentials.

Although there is less publicity by Government of this silent killer, since 2012, Zambia has witnessed a three-fold increase in the number of cancer cases, of which 70% are women. Sadly, the 71% of people diagnosed with cancer in our country die from the disease.

Further, though Zambia has set up the National Cancer Control Unit, and has set goals for cancer control including reducing premature mortality from cancers by 30% by 2030, very little is being done practically to achieve this goal, and other targets listed in the global plan for the prevention and control cancer diseases.

Of course, significant effort has been made for early detection of cancer at district and provincial levels, whereby procedures such as X-rays, CT scans and mammograms are used for the early detection and diagnosis. However, the quality of service for appropriate referrals for provision of quality cancer treatment and follow-up through the CDH is pathetic lately.

Furthermore, Government has failed to develop an effective palliative care service at district, provincial and national levels. Patients referred to CDH that do not have relatives to take care of them whilst undergoing radiotherapy are subject to extremely poor care.

Additionally, Government has failed to implement an efficient and effective decentralised system of governance and management of cancer programmes to ensure high standards of efficiency, transparency and accountability at all levels of the health sector. Most patients have to wait for more than six months on the queue to be attended to. Some end up dying before their turn comes for radiotherapy.

It is extremely ridiculous that Zambia, with a population of almost 20 million people, has only one comprehensive cancer treatment centre, CDH located in Lusaka. The CDH is the first and only cancer treatment centre offering radiation therapy in Zambia. At the moment, radiotherapy is the only effective means to treat and manage the disease, and provide substantial pain relief for patients when cure is not possible. Therefore, radiation medicine offered at CDH is a vital component of cancer treatment and control in Zambia.

However, with souring travel costs lately, it is extremely difficult for patients living in far flung areas such as Mpulungu, Shangombo, Nsumbu, Chama and Mwinilunga to travel to Lusaka for comprehensive treatment. Consequently, cancer patients end unduly dying without access to comprehensive treatment.

For example, for the period 2008-2014 there were about 18,000 cancer patients in Zambia of which 11,600 were females and 6,400 were males. The number of patients that died during this period was about 13,000. Lately, it is estimated that annually, more than 3,000 cancer patient die.

Furthermore, although, CDH has recorded a steady increase in the number of new cases, currently estimated at about 4,000 new cancer cases, however, Lusaka province refers the largest number of cases. The figures are smaller from the other nine provinces simply because patients cannot afford to travel to Lusaka due to high travel and lodging costs.

Cancer diseases in Zambia are on the increase due to lifestyle factors such as high-fat diet, GMO foods, and use of toxic cosmetics and other chemicals. The diseases is also exacerbated by environmental factors such as use of pesticides and fertilizers. Living within the close proximity of power lines and cell sites is another factor contributing to the rise in cancers, which undoubtedly, is now one of the major contributor to morbidity and mortality in Zambia.

We demand immediate attention to this silent killer by addressing the issues we have highlighted above.


  1. I cannot agree more with you Mr. Peter Sinkamba. I brought in my sister with cervical cancer from the village in March 2010. She got admitted at the UTH after tests confirmed she had cancer. Her condition was stabilised and put on the waiting list for chemotherapy in September. She died in August of the same year before she could even go for chemo. When she died, I said to myself that the whole cancer diseases centre was a sham. I shudder to think of the many cancer patients today who have to wait for treatment at the UTH when health care under the UPND has gotten even worse.

  2. In Zambia out doctors and nurses just don’t care…this is the sad and honest truth. It was the same under MMD, PF and now even in the present govt. We have employed nurses and doctors who only care about the two S’s (selfies and salaries)…I’ve seen terrible things whereby relatives have died due to pure neglect on the part of doctors and nurses. Why aren’t there cases being brought out in the courts to prosecute the culprits? These people in the medical fraternity need to be held accountable when they fall short of the service they are paid to deliver.

  3. This is a good check from Mr Sinkamba, with stats to argue his case. Government should pick it from here. If it means selling all government GXs to buy cancer treatment equipment for each provincial capital atleast, let us do that. To have everyboy travelling from all the far flung areas is sentencing people to death, people cannot afford. We fought for independence for self rule, let us now self rule ourselves and do the best for our country. We are serving some money from the removed fuel subsidies, let us buy cancer equipment and other essential medical equipment

  4. Good points by Peter but if he was truly Green which he not he would promote healthier diets and herbal medicines and remedies which can eliminate and cure cancer.

  5. This is now a sensible thing taken up by green party and something which you can prod government which even people will support you. Not bailing out PF members who were drawing illegal salaries.

  6. What can one add? One day people’s lamentations shall be answered. This is the worst government in terms of health service delivery but it’ll come to pass. And people will continue to refer to these dark moments for a long time, especially that we’ve a pumped up government that always boasts about excellence yet there’s nothing to show for it

  7. Ba masebo syviah I never thought that she is useless woman ,ok let us agree that those equipment are very expensive but why even cheap drugs are not available in hospitals madam lazy minister???? This woman as soon as you replace her the better, the madam knows nothing about the work,no wonder Munir Zulu said that woman should not be given positions.

  8. Muntu Wa Bufi tali nako. His preoccupation is planning ukuseya in the guise of marketing the country.

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