Aug 01, 2017 News
Breast cancer is still the leading cancer in Guyana, followed by cervical cancer. Not too far behind is prostate cancer. This is based on an analysis by Dr. Morris Edwards, which took into consideration the cancer situation between 2002 and 2012. Prostate cancer was the third leading cancer in this part of the world.
Giving attention to the cancer state of affairs recently was Dr. Latoya Gooding who has for a few years been playing an integral part in the treatment of cancer at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC].
She is also a key player behind the Giving Hope Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation, which was established in recognition of the need for persons to seek medical attention at an early stage.
Based on her observation while at the GPHC, Dr. Gooding was able to deduce that prostate cancer is under-diagnosed, a situation which she has linked to the fact that “men just have not been coming forward to seek medical attention.
“The only thing that can confirm that you have prostate cancer is a biopsy.”
The required biopsy which is an examination of tissue removed from the body to determine the presence, cause or extent of the cancer, is offered free of cost.
The GPHC has been offering even more in its efforts to help reduce the scourge of cancer. According to Dr. Gooding, while in the past the GPHC was not in a position to offer a needed test in order to confirm suspected cases of cancer, this is no longer the situation that obtains.
With the availability of the test, she noted that the public hospital is able to offer targeted breast cancer treatment for patient.
The test that is being offered is called the ImmunoHistoChemistry which is used to not only help to diagnose diseases such as cancer but also to help tell the difference between the types of cancer.
The test is valued at more than $130,000 but patients are offered it for free at the GPHC. Added to this, Dr. Gooding said that once the ImmunoHistoChemistry test confirms the presence of cancer, the hospital does even more.
“If the test gives a positive reading, then the hospital buys the drugs for the patient,” said Dr. Gooding. The test also serves to determine the hormone status of patients thus allowing the hospital to be in a better position to treat patients.
According to Dr. Gooding in the past once patients would have completed chemotherapy, radiation and surgery they were all subjected to five years of identical treatment. This translated to them being administered the cancer drugs tamoxifen or letrozole.
“This has changed. What is happening now is that only persons who really require these will get them. It isn’t just because everyone else is getting it you will get it too. If you are HER2 positive, it is herceptin that will be administered to you,” said Dr. Gooding.
HER2-positive breast cancer is said to be a more aggressive type of breast cancer compared with those that are HER2 negative types. Experts have confirmed that HER2-positive breast cancer tends to grow faster, spread more easily and is more likely to return.
However its symptoms are said to be similar to other types of breast cancer with the most typical sign being a lump in the breast that is harder than the surrounding area.
Herceptin to treat the HER2-positive type of breast cancer attracts a cost of $6.5 million per patient. The drug, according to medical experts, has been found to be effective since it works by attaching itself to HER2 receptors on the surface of the breast cancer cells and blocks them from receiving growth signals. Since Herceptin can slow or stop the growth of cancer, experts have described it as an immune targeted therapy.
Although the GPHC’s capacity would only allow the hospital to offer such treatment in limited amounts, it has been able to provide this treatment to some patients by collaborating with the Trinidad-based Roche Pharmaceutical.
“I am happy to see such an initiative take off, whereby help to this extent could have been offered to patients, some of whom otherwise would not have been able to access such treatment,” said Dr. Gooding.
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