Also known as colorectal cancer (CRC), it affects the colon and rectum which is the final part of the digestive tract.
Speaking in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, ORCI director of cancer prevention services Dr Crispin Kahesa said the self-testing plan has been adopted to slow down the disease’s prevalence through early diagnosis and management.
He said this type of cancer, associated mainly with the consumption of smoked foods, is now ranked 11th most prevalent cancer in the country - up from the 20th position it held nine years ago - out of 200 types of cancers.
“When this type of cancer is detected in at early stages one and two, it can be easily cured through surgery or chemotherapy. But when it is diagnosed at stages three and four, it can only be managed through palliative care,” Dr Kahesa explained.
He added that the user-friendly apparatus allows for diagnosis of the disease through a simple screening of stool. The self-test kit costs 100,000/-, but according to Dr Kahesa, that is nothing compared to an average of 6 million/- that each patient spends in palliative care before they die.
“We introduced the service since June 1this year and we look forward to rolling out screening programmes in all health facilities countrywide,” he said, adding:
“Our main target is people aged 40 years and below, since most cancers affect people aged above 40.”
The ORCI official said at present the institute diagnoses at least 200 new cases of colon cancer disease per year.
He noted that most of the cases at the institute receive palliative care treatment and not curative because of having presented their cases at a late stage, despite the disease being preventable.
A public education programme is being prepared for both care providers and communities on preventive methods, including how to recognise early signs and symptoms of the disease.
According to Dr Kahesa, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Tanga, Zanzibar, and Coast regions contribute 61 per cent of all patients diagnosed with CRC in the country.
Recent ORCI data shows that Dar es Salaam led with 16.88 per cent of all colon cancer cases diagnosed last year, followed by Mbeya (10.83 per cent), Morogoro (10.58), and Kilimanjaro (8.31 per cent).
The least affected regions were Geita (0.5 per cent), Kagera, Rukwa and Simiyu, which each carried 0.76 per cent of the cancer burden in the country.
Cervical cancer ranks as the leading cancer type in Tanzania, followed by Kaposi Sarcoma, breast, esophageal, head and neck, lymphoma and leukemia cancers. Others are urinary bladder, skin, eye, prostate, and liver cancers.
According to a research article published by the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology about two years ago, CRC is a growing public health concern with increasing rates in countries with previously known low incidence. The study determined pattern and distribution of CRC in Tanzania and identified hot spots in case distribution.
CRC incidence has risen dramatically over the past 50 years, especially in developing country contexts and often related to risk factors such as adoption of westernized diets, obesity, and reduced physical activity.
Furthermore, epidemiological studies report a significant relationship between red meat consumption and CRC development, yielding recommendation that it should be eaten less frequently or avoided altogether.