Cancer deaths rise, need for greater awareness noted
Stabroek News
February 13, 2007

Related Links: Articles on health
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Cancer jumped within the last seven years from being the fourth leading cause of death in Guyana to the third with breast cancer leading the number of cases recorded within this period.

Just last week World Cancer Day was observed and though several activities are being rolled out to mark the occasion there is still a need for greater awareness.

On Wednesday, Dr Chris Prashad of the Georgetown Public Hospital lamented the fact that too many women turn up at the institution with advanced cases of breast cancer.

A short while ago Thomas Eversly of the Cancer Care Institute told Stabroek News the same thing; he said they would show up when the institute can do nothing for them.

Recently, Miriam Ally of the Ministry of Health noted in a feature on cancer that the disease is imposing a considerable burden in Guyana. She emphasised that the diversity of disorders, the effect on the quality of life of the affected patients, as well as the high cost of the diagnosis and treatment mean that cancer is an important health issue.

Between the period 2000-2004 there were 2,236 recorded cases of cancer. In a breakdown, the figures show that cancer cases recorded were 345, 393, 449, 574, and 475 in the years 2000, 2002, 20002, 2003 and 2004 respectively.

After breast cancer, the principal cancers in the period 2000-2004 were prostate which totalled 326 cases; cervical at 288; colon at 125; stomach at 115; lung at 87; liver at 70 and others totalling 881.

A further breakdown of the cases revealed that Region Four had high numbers of breast, prostate, cervical and colon cancer in comparison to the other nine regions. Region Six also recorded fairly high numbers.

In the feature, Ally pointed to studies which show that there was an estimated 480,000 deaths due to cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2002 with projections pushing this to 841,000 by 2020.

As far as treatment goes cancer patients can access chemotherapy at the public hospital free of cost but there have been questions raised in the past about how they are admitted into the programme.

Radiotherapy is available in the private sector at the Cancer Care Institute which is located at the public hospital.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Health hosted a brief session in observance of World Cancer Day and Dr Malika Mootoo delivered a presentation on childhood cancer, while Dr Chris Prashad spoke on breast cancer.

Dr Mootoo noted that childhood cancer is rare with one in very 600 children developing cancer before age 15. She said leukaemia is the most common type of cancer in children and if it is detected early it can be cured. However, she said, in developing countries about 60 percent of children diagnosed with cancer still die.

According to her, Guyana has a few cases of childhood cancer. She said there is nothing to be alarmed about but warned that obesity has become a problem for many young children.

She said the signs to detect leukaemia include a sudden tendency to bruise, prolonged, unexplained fever or illness, frequent headaches, often with vomiting and excessive, rapid weight loss.

In his presentation Dr Prashad noted that breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths among women in Guyana. He said the specific causes of breast cancer are unknown so women really should pay keen attention to the risk factors which include a history of cancer in one breast, age, direct family history and early menstruation among other things.

He noted that women over 50 should show a greater interest in this particular area since they are more at risk and stressed that women over 50 should have mammograms done. (Iana Seales)