BEING diagnosed with cervical cancer was like a death sentence, Wanga Mutale, an actress in a popular local series drama Mpali, says. Mrs Mutale, who plays the role of Amai Guru, was diagnosed with the disease in 2014. She could not bear the news and was at pains to inform her five children about her predicament.
“I pretended all was well but deep down in my heart, the battle was too huge for me. I went for screening and it (cancer) was first only diagnosed as a growth. When they (doctors) cut part of the growth [for analysis], it was confirmed to be cervical cancer,” she said. Mrs Mutale was speaking yesterday during a high-level private sector engagement meeting on breast and cervical cancer control in Zambia. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD). Upon detection at Mtendere Clinic, Mrs Mutale was referred to University Teaching Hospitals (UTH) for treatment.
“It was not easy, but I thank my husband, children and entire family for their support until I pulled through. “Here I am today, I was cured of cancer,” Mrs Mutale said. She called for more cancer awareness countrywide to save lives of women and girls. And Karen Nakawala, another cervical cancer survivor and advocate, said lack of awareness among women is worrying.
Ms Nakawala said the disease burden in communities is huge, hence the need for deliberate initiatives to scale up awareness campaigns countrywide. And First Lady Esther Lungu has called for a solid public-private partnership in the fight against cancer to achieve universal health coverage. Speaking when she officiated at the meeting, Mrs Lungu also urged men to screen for breast and prostate cancer.
She said because of the complexity of the disease, the private sector must work with Government to minimise the burden. “Private sector, come along and let us strengthen and invest in the community to raise awareness because this will go a long way to the attainment of universal health coverage,” she said.
Mrs Lungu said civil society plays an important role in providing advocacy to cancer patients in various communities. “We must work together to mount a stronger team to win the fight against cancer. We must conquer cancer collaboratively,” Mrs Lungu said. She said Zambia has one of the best cervical cancer prevention programmes, which other countries are looking up to.
The First Lady said despite challenges in the fight against the disease, Government has made notable progress. Mrs Lungu urged cancer survivors to raise awareness on the control and prevention of the disease. And Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said President Edgar Lungu’s will to the health-for-all agenda will significantly contribute to creating a productive country. Dr Chilufya thanked Mrs Lungu for her contribution to the attainment of quality health services.