Too many cancer patients turn up at terminal stage
-treatment centre head
Stabroek News
January 29, 2007

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In the six months that it has been operational, the Cancer Care Institute at the Georgetown Public Hospital has seen a continuous flow of patients. However, a considerable number of them are at the terminal stage of their illness.

Around 200 patients have received treatment, many of whom are women diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer. Among the other types of cancer the institute has treated are throat, abdomen and colorectal cancer.

Managing Director of the institute Thomas Eversly said in a recent interview that 178 patients had received radiotherapy treatment as of November last year. Of that figure 38 have completed the full treatment.

Though the numbers are encouraging, he said, too many patients are going to the institute when they are in the last stage of their illness.

"Many of them are at stage four when we are not in a position to do anything but refer them back to a physician or some other institute which assists with hospice care and quality of life," Eversly said.

Because of this, Eversly said, the cancer institute will embark on a massive education programme over the next few months. He said part of the campaign involves advertisements in the media.

Eversly said the problem appears to be that people are not seeking specialist advice in determining whether or not they have cancer.

He recalled that one woman visited the institute with a swollen leg which was cancerous and she had only been taking pills for the swelling on the advice of her doctor.

Additionally, he said, they have seen patients who were on chemotherapy treatment and were not being monitored at all.

According to him, the cancer institute had been low-key for the last six months, but is now better positioned to start reaching out to people.

Recently, the centre purchased a mammogram machine, which will soon add to the range of services it provides.

But more importantly, Eversly said, the institute plans to work with a few non-governmental organisations that offer care and support to various groups of people.

The cancer institute offers radiotherapy treatment at a cost of US$100 per treatment. Oncologist Dr Narendra Bhalla of Chicago operates the linear accelerator, which is the machine used in external beam radiation treatment.

The machine delivers a uniform dose of high energy x-rays to the region of the patient's tumour. These x-rays can destroy the cancer cells while sparing the surrounding normal tissue.

The total cost of the radiotherapy treatment at the institute is approximately US$2,800.

Global Imaging Services, which is a private firm, is managing the cancer institute in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital. (Iana Seales)