News / Africa

Traditional, Western Medicine Treat Cancer in Senegal

Zimbabwean healer Martha Katsande shows a traditional medicine in her surgery in Harare (File Photo).
Zimbabwean healer Martha Katsande shows a traditional medicine in her surgery in Harare (File Photo).
Amanda Fortier

With cancer rates in Senegal rising, traditional healers and medical doctors hope to collaborate for better treatment.

Serigne Samba Ndiaye was trained by his father as a traditional healer and herbalist. At his private clinic on the outskirts of Dakar, he treats everything from insomnia to cancer.

Ndiaye say he grinds kola nuts into a powder that he uses to treat breast cancer. Ndiaye says more and more of the 40 to 50 patients he sees each day are suffering from cancer, and they are increasingly turning to traditional medicine.

A few kilometers away in downtown Dakar, lines of men and women fill the hallways of the Cancer Institute, the only clinic of its kind in West Africa. Some patients are visiting from neighboring Mali, Mauritania, Guinea and The Gambia.  

Institute director Mammadou Diop says cancer in Africa is far different than when he was in  medical school.

Dr. Diop says at the time they called cancer ‘a disease of the rich’, and students were told it was an illness that only existed in Western countries.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020 more than half of all cancer cases worldwide will be in developing countries, with a million new cases a year in Africa.

Dr. Diop says it is clear cancer rates are rising, with the most common forms in this country of 12 million people being cancer of the uterus, liver, blood, prostate and lymph nodes.

He says this is due to several factors, including an aging population, poor diet and lifestyle choices, a high rate of infectious disease, and an increased use of tobacco and alcohol.

Erick Gbodossou opened the Malango Center for Traditional Medicine in Fatick, about 150 kilometers southeast of Dakar. He believes the term "cancer" is not appropriate for Africans.

Dr. Gbodossou says they talk of cancer because of their education, which is colonial.  Africans believe that all illness is related to the environment.  It is not a virus or bacteria that brings on illness, but the surroundings that favor some infections over others.

Dr. Gbodossou says in this traditional view, the real cause of cancer is an imbalance in the energy that comes from where and how people live.

Nearly half of Senegal’s population lives in cities. In Dakar, the rapid rate of construction and the high cost of materials mean that some houses are built using garbage as filler because it is cheap and accessible.

The World Health Organization says with these piles of rotting trash and toxic waste come more illness, including tuberculosis, yellow fever and malaria.  Those illnesses weaken immunity and make people more susceptible to developing some forms of cancer.

In Senegal, traditional treatments rely largely on locally grown plants, such as kenkileba, tamarind and jatropha. But Dr. Gbodossou says treating cancer involves more than just herbs.

Dr. Gbodossou says there are important rites and rituals to re-establish the body’s equilibrium. There are also techniques and exercises to improve the energy, like deep breathing, organ massage, and what they call "causerie," which is a type of group discussion.

One of the attractions of traditional medicine is its price. The majority of Senegalese still live on about $2 a day, and Western medicine is expensive. Dr. Diop says only about one percent of the local population can afford pharmaceutical cancer drugs.

He says even those who can afford to see doctors are reluctant to admit they also consult traditional healers.

Dr. Diop says many of his patients are afraid of being stigmatized. They assume the medical community considers all traditional healers as charlatans.

The absence of laws to regulate herbal treatments or evaluate alternative rituals and techniques has made it easier for people to exploit the practice of traditional medicine.

Dr. Gbodossou says the art of healing, before colonization, did not have charlatans.  The art of healing was not a way to make money. Before working as a healer, they were also farmers or animal breeders. That gave them money to live.  We say a hungry healer cannot be real healer. So before colonization there was no reason to exploit each other.   We did it for free.

As cancer rates continue to climb in Senegal, doctors from both practices realize the importance of combining efforts.

Dr. Diop says Senegal's medical community can never do the same amount of research as Western countries, so they need to lift certain barriers and prejudices here so people can benefit from the best of both systems.

For traditional practitioners, there are still some stereotypes to overcome before they can prove their worth to the greater medical community.

Dr. Gbodossou says a type of hierarchy exists between the medical and traditional communities. But he is convinced that if the scientific and political communities collaborate with traditional doctors based on mutual-respect, everyone will benefit.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid