Cancer killed 647 in 42 months
-fast diagnosis key to survival
Stabroek News
May 12, 2004

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Some 647 persons died from cancer between January 2000 and June 2003 - around 15 per month - representing roughly 60% of the 1085 diagnosed cases, says a preliminary report from the Guyana Cancer Registry Board.

The most common cancers found in Guyana are breast, 169; prostate, 152; cervical, 136; colon, 65; stomach, 62; lung, 52; liver, 30. There were 419 cases of other cancers.

Presenting the report at the Woodlands Hospital office yesterday, Chairman of the board, Dr Walter Chin, said that persons who have died from cancers represent 60% of the total cases.

There were 110 deaths from prostate cancer, 79 from breast, 56 from colon, 45 from cancer of the lung, 41 from the cervix, and 26 from liver.

Cancer of the liver represented the highest mortality rate with some 86.7% of the persons diagnosed succumbing during the three and half year-period.

The report noted that the case fatality is high and what is noteworthy is that the diagnoses between the ages of 45-54 have 100% fatality.

The patients older than 85 years also show a high case-fatality rate followed by those in the 75-84 age group.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer of the female sex and exhibits a high case-fatality rate in all age groups. The report noted that it is necessary to make early diagnoses of this cancer.

"It is important to educate women on self-examination of the breast along with mammography in order to improve the early diagnosis of this disease," the report said.

It was noted that cervical cancer, despite showing a low mortality and low case-fatality rate in comparison with other forms of cancers, rates high for a cancer

that with an early diagnosis can be cured.

Dr Chin said the mortality rate is in keeping with the global trend.

Questioned about underreporting of cases, Dr Chin said, "I don't think that we have got all the cases, the only reason that we have presented this report is because we suspect this is the trend. And if we get any further reports of cases of cancer I don't think it will change what we have very significantly. We may well be on our way to have about eighty percent of the cases.

"As far as the age groups are concerned you will see from the figures that most of the cancers are occurring in the age groups over 45 years... Because cancer tends to attack the elderly, so as the population ages, as life expectancy increases, you will expect that cancer will occur and will increase in the elderly."

But Dr Chin noted that there are some cancers that are occurring in the younger age groups, 15-24, mostly cervical cancer. Also he said that there are cases with teenagers with breast cancer.

The board was established in September 1998 by the health ministry and one of the key functions was for the board to develop and maintain a cancer registry.

This was established in June 2000 through an initiative by the Canadian High Commission.

The function of the registry is to maintain a cancer database to make the data available for use by health providers, planners and educators.

Also the data will be utilised for epidemiological and clinical research and to produce reports on cancer incidence and mortality.

Dr Chin said that the data would be useful. "Now we know what are some of the common cancers that occur in Guyana... we can ask ourselves are any of these cancers preventable?"

He said cancer of the cervix does not have a high mortality rate and it is preventable.

"We should not be seeing so many cases of cancer of the cervix. We know that any abnormal changes in the cervix before cancer actually develops can be detected with a pap smear.

And therefore what this report tells us is that there is a lot of work to be done among the women in Guyana to let them know about the value of a pap smear so that we can cut down firstly on the number of cases and eventually cut down on the number of women that are dying."

He called for more public awareness programmes to get more women to have pap smears done.

According to Dr Chin, other cancers, such as colon, breast and prostate, from data worldwide are related to obesity. He said that the implication of such information is that if obesity could be reduced such cancers would be lowered.

The doctor said smoking does not only cause cancer of the lung but other cancers and it is responsible for almost a third of all cancers worldwide.

"But what we are now beginning to understand too is that obesity is beginning to rival smoking as a cause of cancer... So that is something else that we have to get across to the population," Dr Chin said.

Dr Chin noted that treatment is not easily available in Guyana and as such prevention is vital.