Without valid statistics, it is unscientific to ascertain which type of cancer is currently accounting for the majority of cancer deaths. There have been some who are convinced that the majority of cancer deaths here in Guyana are due to breast cancer.
Then there are others who have concluded that cervical cancer has taken the lead.
But according to Director of Outreach at the Cancer Institute of Guyana, Dr. Syed Ghazi, both cancers are responsible for a great deal of deaths right here in Guyana.
Dr. Ghazi explained that although the victims of these impacting cancers hail from various parts of Guyana. It has however been discovered that some areas are more prone to one or the other.
For instance, he disclosed that victims of breast cancer are often residents of urban areas while those who develop cervical cancer are often dwellers of rural areas. However, the precise data as it relates to these cancers are not currently known.
Dr. Ghazi said that other than a survey (conducted by Dr. Morris Edwards) which examines the reported cases of cancer over a 10-year period [2003 – 2012], there are no readily available data that accurately reflect the current state of cancer in Guyana.
“A lot of the stats we have are from American studies, so basically I don’t think Guyana has, since 2012, any studies on its own statistics which could tell us what is happening but based on what we see, breast cancer and cervical cancer are common, not only here in Guyana but in the Region too,” related Dr. Ghazi.
It is moreover the view of the Cancer Institute Director that “instead of getting lost in the stats, I would comfortably say both of these cancers are very common.” In fact he concluded that the basis of anyone’s action when it comes to combating cancer should not only be on which is the leading cause of cancer but rather on the fact that “cancer is a monster and it can get anywhere and attack anyone without any regards for their colour…it doesn’t spare anyone.”
In the fight against cancer, he noted, that it is important to establish from early on the high risk populations and from that vantage point efforts can be fast-tracked.
A key factor in combating cancer, he said, is screening. Screening for cancer simply refers to measures to help detect cancer before the symptoms appear. This may involve blood tests, urine tests, other tests or medical imaging. The benefit of screening is that there can be early detection which will lead to treatment that can help to save lives.
Against this background, the Cancer Institute will, during the course of this month, advance the notion of screening by offering free sonomammogram. This offer comes even as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being observed. A sonomammogram is a non-invasive ultrasound that is done to assess the breasts and the blood flow to areas inside of them. This test allows quick visualization of the breast tissue.
Although clients of the Cancer Institute are required to pay for the service offered, Dr. Ghazi explained that this cost is only intended to ensure that the not-for-profit operation remains sustainable.
In order to offer the free service during this month, he disclosed that the Institute is looking to corporate Guyana for support. “We have only got a couple of sponsors so far, enough to cover about 30 or 40 women but we are expecting about 300-400 coming to access the service,” said Dr. Ghazi.
The cost for a sonomammogram at the Institute amounts to $10,000, but according to Dr. Ghazi, although that may be a small price to pay to be screened for a disease that could have a fatal outcome, some people are still not financially able to do so. He explained that the Institute decided to streamline a programme that would enable persons, especially those who are high-risk, to be screened at no cost to them this month.
Since the Institute will only be able to cater to a limited number, Dr. Ghazi said that the no-cost screening programme will mainly target women 40 years and older. He however noted that those within the 20 – 40 age group can also visit the Institute and benefit from clinical examinations.
Special focus, he noted, will be given to “women who are between 35 and 40 and have a family history. They can have a mammogram done as well, provided we find a lump or anything.”
This move to help the women in particular, according to Dr. Ghazi, is a deliberate tactic to give back to women who often leave themselves deprived in order to cater to their families.
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