Concern has been raised over the low uptake of free cancer screening services that are being offered at various health facilities.

At the Cancer Centre in Harare, 176 women and only one man have come for screening, since the 1st of October, a month dedicated to breast cancer awareness worldwide.

Zimbabwe is credited for having one of the few functional national cancer registries in Africa, which was established in 1985.

According to 2015 cancer registry report, the country is recording about 7000 new cases of cancer every year.

Despite the availability of cancer prevention and screening programmes, cancer related morbidity and mortality rates remain very high and it is surprising that even when the services are being offered for free, not many people are willing to be screened.

By 12 midday this Wednesday, the waiting and screening rooms at the Cancer Centre were empty with no sign of people coming in to be screened.

“It is quite disheartening that we are seeing a decrease in the number of people who are presenting to take up the services that are on offer this month. The number is actually decreasing if you compare with last year’s figures. Today is the 17th of October but I can tell you that by Friday last week, only 176 women had come for screening,” said Mr Lovemore Makurirofa, the Cancer Centre Information, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager. Cancer treatment is still very expensive in Zimbabwe and treatment facilities are only available in Harare and Bulawayo, reasons why some people who live outside the two main cities rather opt not to know their status.

Observers in the health sector are advocating for a comprehensive cancer control policy and programmes as well as significant investment in terms of infrastructure and equipment, human resources, technologies, medicines and vaccines for cancer.

Appropriate investment will ensure that patients accessing health care services or those who undergo screening and are found positive to any type of cancer are assured of receiving quality treatment and care regardless of who and where they are.