In Zambia, cancer is a disease shrouded in mystery and silence. Most breast cancer cases in the country are diagnosed at an advanced stage. This is partially due to the dearth of information on metastatic breast cancer (MBC). MBC patients need to access culturally relevant information on the disease and options to receive support. Radio, as the most popular and accessible mode of communication in the country, has the potential to reach large audiences to sensitise people on breast cancer as well as support MBC patients.
The Zambian Cancer Society (ZCS) is a non-profit organisation focusing on the dissemination of information and supporting those affected by cancer, irrespective of age, gender or type of cancer. By breaking the silence on cancer, ZCS is committed to creating a cancer-smart Zambia through health education, community programmes and events. With the “Tisamala” project, ZCS has created a radio drama to reach and educate the general public as well as MBC patients in the country.
ZCS won a SPARC award in October 2019 together with ten other grantees, to support their project “Tisamala Radio Drama”. This project was created to increase breast cancer awareness in Zambia in support of the government’s national cancer control plan.
Radio is the most popular mode of communication in Zambia and can help overcome barriers such as social class and literacy, which impedes large audiences in accessing MBC information. The project recorded a radio drama series called “Tisamala” (which means “we care” in a local language) consisting of 13 episodes of 25 minutes each and broadcast the episodes over all the country.
The radio drama story features health care workers and MBC patients interacting in a breast cancer clinic. The scenes of the drama dispel stigma and myths around the disease in an entertaining and educative way. Happy, one of the main actors in the story, also shared that by participating in this SPARC project she was fulfilling a promise she had made to her late husband to raise awareness around cancer.
The radio drama was aired via two radio stations. It covered seven themes aiming at educating the public on breast cancer, namely: general knowledge about advanced breast cancer, health care services, risk factors, screening, side effects, supportive care, symptoms, and treatment options.
"Tisamala Radio Drama highlights some of the challenges Zambian cancer patients currently face including stigma, intense family friction and negative spiritual beliefs. By confronting these issues, we are helping to demystify the disease and promote holistic cancer care for all."
The information in the drama provides an accessible way to disseminate information about breast cancer in general and MBC more specifically. In addition to sharing educational information about breast cancer, the listeners are encouraged to seek care at their local health centre or via the ZCS in case of symptoms or questions.
The project, carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Health and two of the biggest radio stations in the country, has a wide audience and is aligned with the ambitions of the country national cancer control plan. According to the two radio stations that aired the radio drama, the radio drama reached an estimated 1 million people.
“Tisamala was very educative. It is simple and to the point. I can see a lot more people benefiting from it. Well done”.
Listener, Radio Christian Voice
The radio drama received very positive feedback and set in motion several other projects the organisation has carried out or plans to carry out including:
Finally, through its wide reach, it is anticipated that the radio drama will have a ripple effect on patients diagnosed with other cancers in addition to their caregivers.
(Information from the project description and context is compiled from the final SPARC report)