The Sunday Mail
Stories by Shamiso Yikoniko Extra Reporter
ln different parts of the world, traditional medicine is either the mainstay of health care delivery or serves as a complement to it. A local herbalist, Sekuru Newton Mudzingwa, claims to have scaled up cancer treatment through traditional medicines. Sekuru Mudzingwa claims that he cured a Murambinda man who was plagued with Kaposi Sarcoma over the past eight years, among other several patients.
He claims 80 percent success rate in curing cancer. “Traditional medicine is an important but often underestimated part of health care,” said Sekuru Mudzingwa.
“lt treats all infections affecting the body using detoxification and cleaners and cancer isn’t an exception. “Many conditions are curable with traditional medicines, which forms the basis of the antagonism between traditional and the pharmaceutical side.
“A case in point is the man from Murambinda whom I cured of Kaposi Sarcoma. He can testify to that.”
“Cancer has always been traditionally curable in Zimbabwe, based on the behavior of the mole (nhuta/invukuzane),” said Sekuru Mudzingwa.
“I believe that the medical side needs to move with the times and give the patients the opportunity to choose their preferred care,” he said.
He added that it is a myth that traditional medicine is linked to traditional healers and the spiritual world.
“Our products include immune modulators and blood boosters and we also pay attention to management and treatment of fungal infections, skin rashes, sores and herpes,” he said.
But Cancer Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ) monitoring and evaluation officer, Mr Lovemore Makurirofa remains skeptical.
“As a registered association, we can’t deny that traditional medicines have medicinal effects but we are still waiting for evidence-based modalities and meaningful conclusions on whether traditional medicines cure cancer or not,” said Mr Makurirofa.
“The major query we have as CAZ is the traditional medicine’s dosages. Patients may be overdosed while some may react. There is also the issue of toxicity, this can pose challenges,” he said.
Mr Makurirofa also discouraged mixing conventional and traditional treatment of cancer.
“We can only encourage mixing the two when it has been proven that they can work simultaneously,” he said.
“However, a patient reserves the right to choice the form of treatment they are comfortable with.”
Ministry of Health and Child Care’s director for traditional medicine, Mr Onias Ndoro bemoans the lack of standard practice for traditional medicines.
“By its nature, traditional practice is based in secrecy, making it difficult to get the opportunity to repeat the same intervention under a controlled measured environment to validate the claims,” said Mr Ndoro.
“Traditional medicine, of proven quality, safety and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to care,” he said.
Cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. Cancer cases continue to increase in the country. The Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry (2013) reveals that a total number of new cancers recorded among Zimbabweans in 2013 is 6 548 with 2062 deaths.
In the year 2012, a total of 6 107 cases were recorded with 1 556 deaths.
An increase was also recorded in childhood (0-14) cancers from 211 in 2012 to 236 in 2013. The most occurring cancers among Zimbabweans of all races were cervical cancer (18 percent), Kaposi sarcoma (10 percent), breast and prostate cancer (seven percent each), non-Hodgkin lymphoma and non melamona skin cancer (six percent each), oesophagus and colo-rectal cancers (four percent each), eye cancer (three percent), with other cancers accounting for 35 percent of the registered cancers.
The leading cause of deaths was cervical cancer with 13 percent and prostate cancer at nine percent.
Sadly, about 81 percent of all cancers recorded in Zimbabwe are diagnosed at advanced stages.
The cost of treatment for some the cancers is beyond the reach of many, hence some opt for the ‘cheaper’ traditional medicines.
The costs build up from examination, diagnosis, lumpectomy, surgery and chemotherapy/radiotherapy.
According to a survey conducted by The Sunday Mail Extra, radiotherapy for a session costs between US$3 000 and US$4 000 while chemotherapy costs between US$100 and US$41 000 per cycle, depending on the stage of the cancer.
ln India, chemotherapy costs an average US$900 per cycle while radiotherapy amounts to US$1 900. As a result, many Zimbabweans are trooping to the Asian country to seek medical care.
ln Zimbabwe, there is currently 1, 2 million people on medical aid, against a population of over 13 million people.
Health and Child Care minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa is of the view that traditional medicine needs to be developed in Zimbabwe.
“Traditional medicine has to operate parallel with proven scientific medicines. We encourage it as a country and panel-beat it whenever necessary,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Traditional medicine is found in almost every country in the world and its demand seems to be increasing although there is still debate on whether it can cure diseases such as cancer or not.
In China and Japan, the mainstream medical opinion is that supplementing chemotherapy with traditional herbal formulas can improve survival rates and cancer patients’ life expectancy.
Coriolis versicolor, the common Turkey tail mushroom, has over 400 published studies, including several long-term human clinical trials confirming its cancer killing, anti-metastatic and immune enhancing effects.
It is referred to as a Biological Response Modifier as it improves the patient’s own anti-tumour response.
Researchers at the St Mary’s Medical Centre in San Francisco reviewed several randomized clinical trials and agreed with the Japanese Ministry of Health that this common mushroom significantly improves survival rates and lifespan for gastric, esophageal, colo-rectal, breast and lung cancers.
The World Health Organisation Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2013 recognizes the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to health care that allows governments, health care practitioners and most importantly, those who use health care services to access traditional medicine in a safe, respectful, cost efficient and effective manner.
Government has made strides in curbing the continued increase in cancers in the country with the introduction of human papilloma-virus (HPV) vaccine, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and free visual inspection with acetic acid and cervicography (VIAC), among other various strategies.
Zimbabwe has lots of registered complementary practitioners on homeopathy, herbal and anthroposophy – which among other techniques, uses mistletoe to treat cancer and neutral therapy.