Need for Comprehensive cancer programme emphasised

With more than half of the 6,000-odd cancer victims dying over a 10-year period, it has been deduced that Guyana is in dire need of a comprehensive cancer programme.

However, despite the lack of such a programme, data from the Guyana Cancer Registry suggests that the number of cancer cases noticeably declined by the end of the period 2003-2012.

While the possibility exists that there was limited coverage by 2012 due to the lack of adequate treatment programmes, the trend of cases over the period in question is in fact one that has puzzled health officials and thus requires further investigation.

The cancer situation in Guyana is one that was extensively highlighted yesterday by Director of Disease Control within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Morris Edwards, when he presented an overview of a novel Cancer Surveillance Report.

Dr. Edwards was the mastermind behind the compilation of the Report which was launched yesterday at the Georgetown Herdmanston Lodge, 65 Anira and Peter Rose Streets, Queenstown, in the presence of a wide cross-section of health officials including Senior Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton; Junior Minister of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, and PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr. Williams Adu-Krow.

The report, which outlines the state of cancer over the period 2003-2012, represents a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Health together with PAHO and the Guyana Cancer Registry.
Based on the data obtained, Dr. Edwards was able to ascertain that over the 10-year period a total of 6,518 cancer cases were diagnosed.

He was able to deduce, too, that while on a global scale lung cancer has been named the leading cause of cancer deaths; in Guyana breast cancer is responsible for the highest number of cancer related fatalities. This is translated to 1,090 cases of breast cancer over the period in question. In fact the report details the 10 leading cancers in Guyana.

Following the prevalence of breast cancer is cancer of the cervix which accounts for 1,014 cases; prostate (865 cases); colo-rectal (440 cases); uterus (325 cases); stomach (240 cases); lung (233 cases); liver (219 cases); ovary (212 cases) and lymphoma (136 cases).

Data out of the Cancer Registry, which was drawn from both public and private medical institutions, suggest that since access to treatment has been near non-existent more than half of those inflicted with the disease died.

In stressing the need for raising awareness about cancers in Guyana, Dr. Edwards touted advocacy as a means of bringing into being improved cancer prevention, treatment and control programmes.
Even as he reiterated the need to raise awareness about cancers, the PAHO/WHO Representative (Dr Adu-Krow) noted that like Guyana some 50 percent of countries in the Americas do not have in place cancer programmes.

He also pointed out yesterday that while globally it is said that 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented, 30 percent can in fact be cured altogether. “If we have 79-80 percent of our cancers not having any history of having being treated and 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented I think it stands to reason that we have to pay more attention to prevention,” said Dr. Adu-Krow as he also stressed the need for early screening and treatment.

He also emphasised PAHO/WHO’s commitment to continuing to help Guyana’s effort to address its prevailing cancer situation.

“I think we have a lot on our hand…a lot have been done but there is much more that we can do,” said Dr. Adu-Krow as he highlighted the need for strengthened surveillance in cancer registries. Describing the launch of the Report yesterday as a momentous occasion, Minister Norton asserted that never before such a publication has been produced in the history of Guyana.

“Indeed we are making history here today and for that reason we all should be proud,” said the Minister as he alluded to the fact that when the word cancer is spoken it evokes emotions such as fear and anxiety since the disease is associated with high morbidity and mortality rates.

He therefore lauded the efforts of Dr. Edwards to bring the cancer situation into perspective and went on to extend a challenge to young professionals, doctors or not, to “take a page out of his (Dr. Edwards) book and take up the mantle to do quality work.”

“We need to encourage our epidemiologists, our researchers, programme managers and other professionals to analyse our data and produce valuable, creditable and reliable information, information that we can put to effective use and not just to be information that is languishing on someone’s desk,” asserted the Health Minister.

It is expected that Dr. Edwards’s efforts will serve to not only stimulate interest in cancer research but other types of research.

Kaieteur News Online