Cancer has from time immemorial been a major challenge to health sectors across the world. Guyana, like other countries, has been battling to control its scourge by expanding its cancer screening and sensitisation efforts across the country. Treatment is also a major part of combating this disease.
This, however, does not mean that the impact has subsided. At the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] alone, more than 200 new cases of cancer have been recorded already for this year.
This is according to Dr. Nyron Ramsundar one of the two Government Medical Officers [GMOs] attached to the hospital’s Oncology Unit. These increasing cases, Dr. Ramsundar said, are in addition to those that have been previously diagnosed.
Patients who have received long term treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy, are required to be seen at the Unit, at least, on a quarterly or half yearly basis Dr. Ramsundar said. In fact he disclosed that “we have patients here who have been coming since the Oncology Department was opened. We are seeing these in addition to the new cases.”
The doctor was however not in a position to reveal the total number of patients who are currently accessing cancer service at the GPHC.
While there are a number of patients who have been responding well to treatment and are now surviving cancer, Dr. Ramsundar acknowledge that the hospital does not at present have records to ascertain the survival rate.
“We haven’t done any studies with patients in the department as yet,” said Dr. Ramsundar who is however concerned that too few people have been turning up at the hospital at the early stage of their infliction.
But for those who have been diagnosed as early as stage one and stage two, there are a number whose cancer has gone into remission. “Specifically, breast cancer and colon cancer, we have been seeing patients [whose cancer] are in remission. For those patients we would just do a check up every six months to make sure that everything is ok,” said Dr. Ramsundar.
But in order to get a better understanding of the state of cancer, Consultant and Head of the Oncology Unit, Dr. Justo Despaigne Delisle, said that discussions are currently ongoing for the introduction of a programme to have all cases of cancer recorded at a central level.
This, according to Dr. Delisle, is expected to ensure that all cases of cancers from across the country, at both public and private institutions, are recorded. Such a move, he disclosed, will enable the Public Health Ministry to be able to have in its possession up-to-date statistics as it relates to cancer.
He anticipates that such a programme will be in place within the next five years.
Currently, the only reliable data that the Public Health Ministry can rely on is based on a study conducted some years ago by Dr. Morris Edwards.
Dr Edwards had sourced his information from the Cancer Registry which had garnered its information from recorded cases of cancer at public and private hospitals.
At the time Dr. Edwards was able to deduce that breast cancer was responsible for the majority of cancer deaths in Guyana. Today, however, health officials have been able to conclude that not only have there been an increasing number of cervical cancer cases but this type of cancer has been accounting for more cancer related deaths.
Dr. Edwards’s study, which is contained in the Public Health Ministry’s 2015 Cancer Surveillance Report, covers the state of cancer for the period 2003-2012.
Based on the data it contains, over the 10-year period a total of 6,518 cancer cases were diagnosed. Dr. Edwards was able to deduce that while on a global scale lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths; in Guyana breast cancer back then attracted the highest number of cancer related fatalities.
This translated to 1,090 cases of breast cancer over the period in question. In fact, the report details the 10 leading cancers in Guyana.
Dr. Edwards found that following the prevalence of breast cancer was cancer of the cervix, which he found accounted 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).
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