In the Caribbean region and especially in Guyana, herbal medicines often play an essential role in one’s health. These plants or parts of them can be used for their scent, flavour or therapeutic properties, and in Guyana, it is often used for the latter.
Even though little testing is conducted on these herbs in Guyana, many people believe that these “organic and natural” medicinal products are safe and promote healthy bodies. So, persons use them for all sorts of ailments such as colds, influenza, as an antioxidant, and in some cases, even cancers.
Studies have shown that as many as six out of 10 people with cancer use herbal remedies to treat their disease. This is because they feel “more in control” and it assists them in feeling as if they have some responsibility for their treatment.
The Cancer Institute of Guyana (CIG), which is highly recognized for its cancer diagnoses and treatments not just within the country but the Caribbean region, warns against using herbal medicine, and conventional ways, as a form of cancer treatment.
Kaieteur News spoke to the medical director and clinical oncologist of the cancer institute, Dr. Sayan Chakraborty, and he expressed that using herbal medicines to treat cancer is “not very wise”. He appeals to the Guyanese public to abandon the practice.
“First off, I have nothing against herbal treatment because what I have found is that if we go to the history of cancer treatment, many of the modern- day chemotherapy actually came from the bark of trees or from the plant kingdom,” said Dr. Chakraborty.
But the oncologist was keen to note that while they may use some herbs in their chemotherapy treatment, oncologists had to first conduct varied studies and testing for the purification, production and administration of the medicine, in an effort to make sure that it would be safe for cancer treatment.
“I think that going away from the main stay of treatment—being radiation, and chemotherapy, is probably not a very wise decision. It is common knowledge that these types of therapies have been proven by medical journalistic articles and studies,” the oncologist said.
The Cancer Institute is equipped with a brachytherapy machine, which is used for destroying cancerous tumors in any part of the body, and this can be conducted without harm to the nearby organs. Dr. Chakraborty says that cost that Guyanese pay for therapy with the radiation machine is a fraction of what other patients in the Caribbean pay.
“Cancer treatment does not depend on what anyone thinks. For every cancer treatment, there is a specific international, provided guideline. We will stick to that guideline, we would maintain that guideline. There can be some individual modifications for the patient, but basic guidelines are going to be the same. So, I would advise one to stick to the modality of treatment, which has much vast experience and studies, scientific experience as well,” the oncologist concluded.
Dr. Chakraborty believes that public awareness over the past years has been paying off, but says that it is too early to calculate whether there is a decline in the number of cases.
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