President Hage Geingob has been lauded for disclosing his cancer diagnosis after announcing that he plans to take a break from his duties to focus on his health.
The Namibian editor Tangeni Amupadhi has applauded Geingob for going public about his cancer diagnosis, saying this will not only propel other Namibian men to get tested, but could also be used as a launching pad for deliberate government funded medical developmental efforts.
Amupadhi spoke to Desert Radio yesterday in the wake of the Presidency’s revelation that the results of Geingob’s colonoscopy and gastroscopy, which was followed up with a biopsy, revealed the presence of cancerous cells.
Last year, Amupadhi went public with his own cancer diagnosis.
“The fact that our president is talking about this [his condition] openly, I hope, will lead to our leaders improving the country’s health facilities. The president should be commended for having taken that bold step,” Amupadhi said.
“Speaking from my own personal experience, I think it adds weight to the fact that we should look after our health. We want to have productive citizens.”
He said whether or not someone is diagnosed with cancer is not the main issue, but how early the diagnosis is made is what matters the most.
Amupadhi said the hope now is that the country will invest in the facilities to give people confidence that once they go for cancer testing and are found to be positive, they can immediately embark on their treatment.
Amupadhi did not mince words when he said cancer treatment is not easily affordable.
He said he underwent one of the cheaper treatment options but still had to fork out massive amounts of money from his pocket in addition to the medical aid.
“Hence my hammering that public funds be invested in these facilities to make it easy for people to accept testing as normal and to get treatment.”
Weighing in on the issue, cancer survivor Dr Kagiso Moloi pointed out the side effects of cancer treatment.
“We should remember that chemotherapy constitutes drugs that are put into one’s system. And since they are not targeted, they go through the rest of the person’s body. If something is not targeted to the cancer cells, it means that these chemicals go to your brain, eyes, lungs, etc, and since those areas are not affected, the drugs can cause damage,” Moloi said.
He added that radiation therapy is the preferred treatment method, because it is directed to the point of infection.
According to Dr Moloi, a colonoscopy is a procedure through which medical practitioners check for any abnormalities on the colon. A biopsy, whereby they cut a piece of the colon and take it to the laboratory for testing, is then done. The results depict one of four categories – TN1, TN2, TN3 and TN4.
“TN1 is still in the early stages. TN2 means that it is advancing. TN3 means that it is almost advanced and TN4 shows that it has advanced beyond the colon.”
DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE
Meanwhile, Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) chief executive Rolf Hansen says cancer affects everyone, regardless of social status.
His opinion comes after the president announced that he was diagnosed with cancerous cells last week.
He said the president’s predicament is a reminder that cancer does not discriminate.
“This reaffirms that any person can be diagnosed with cancer. This disease of the cells in our bodies is a mutation of cells – it does not discern between rich, poor, old, young, white or black – we are all biological beings and our bodies sometimes experience challenges like cell mutations (cancers).”
Hansen said this is a collective call to action for Namibia to bolster and invest in its national health institutions to better provide quality care to all Namibians across the economic divide.
“Access to more and better treatment facilities across Namibia is needed to help especially the financially vulnerable.”
The Office of the President issued a statement on Friday announcing that the president’s recent biopsy had revealed cancerous cells.
“On the advice of the medical team, president Geingob will undertake appropriate medical treatment to deal with the cancerous cells,” noted the statement.
Leader of the opposition McHenry Venaani commended the president for taking an accountable approach to leadership, citing his own transparency with his health.
“Generally, a person’s health is a private matter. However, when you are at the centre of public office, it is a good thing that Geingob has put into practice this measure of accountability and share such vital information with the electorate.”
Health deputy minister and president of the National Unity Democratic Organisation Esther Muinjangue also commended Geingob’s transparency which could help tackle stigma around illness.
“Geingob’s openness is encouraging for Namibians, especially Namibian men. It is men’s nature to not be open and honest about personal matters, including health issues, because of social constraints. Being open is also a way of educating the community. It also helps to take away from the stigma and discrimination that people with cancer face.”
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