Incidence of treatable cancer in Guyana alarming
- Irish specialists

Stabroek News
September 21, 2000

A group of specialists from Ireland conducting a review of Guyana's cancer programme expressed alarm at the high incidence of "treatable" cancers here, including the "incredible" number of women with cancer of the cervix, and appealed to the powers that be to help, with a focus on treatment.

Professor of Cancer Medicine, Ernest Egan; Professor of Pathology, Charles Connolly; and Consultant Haematologist/Oncologist Dr Maccon Keane; held a free clinic for 55 selected cancer patients at the New Amsterdam-based Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Centre, whose principal Dr Carl Niamatali organised the visit, with concurrence of the Ministry of Health.

"The situation that we see is worse than we could have imagined. It's tragic. To see a community with things like these happening is very upsetting," bemoaned Prof Egan, during an interaction with a group of individuals, including First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo, and cancer sufferers, at the YWCA Hall, Brickdam on Tuesday evening.

Tuesday's event was organised by the Guyana Cancer Society and the Cancer Survivors Action Group under the theme, 'Everything you want to know about cancer but are afraid to ask.'

Prof Egan said what was heart rending was an encounter with two patients with "exceptionally high" treatable cancer "who were just about still alive." He announced that treatment for one was being organised, while the other was expecting word yesterday.

Prof Egan remarked that the visit would have been well worthwhile, were the team equipped with persons to help point direction to "a few people who have the power and the influence," to do something quickly.

In order to help the authorities grapple with the magnitude of the problem here, he advised that Guyana examine tumour statistics in neighbouring territories "because it is likely that the statistics in those countries would apply to this country." He suggested that this first step at least, though it may not bear a true reflection of the domestic situation, could go some way in helping with data gathering which would take quite a number of years.

Dr Keane called for a focus on treatment of cancer, with surgery being the cornerstone. He noted the importance of having a cancer registry because of the difficulty in locating potential patients.

Turning his attention to the 55 cancer patients seen in New Amsterdam, he said that about 50% of them had significantly-progressed cancer of the cervix. "It [cervical cancer] is a preventable disease. It is also an incredibly treatable disease if we get it early."

Dr Keane recommended condom use for young girls who are becoming sexually active, and for sexually-active women as well, pap-smear tests, and reducing the intake of fat in one's diet. "It [cervical cancer] is going to become a smaller incidence disease and a much lower killer," if the recommended measures are followed, Dr Maccon said.

Meanwhile, Prof Connolly noted the absence of a histopathologist in Guyana, and urged that the country seek to acquire someone with this fundamental skill in the shortest term. A histopathologist is one who determines whether someone is cancer-free through the examination of his or her cell specimen.

The Irish cancer specialists will submit their findings and recommendations for improving the diagnosis and treatment of the disease to the Ministry of Health. Their visit was sponsored by the Electricity Sector Board of Ireland (ESBI), share-holder of the Guyana Power and Light Inc.

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