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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Local cancer patients to start

Guyanese cancer patients will have a new lease on life within weeks when they begin benefiting from radiation therapy at the Oncology Unit established at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). The first patient is expected to receive treatment on March 15.

Persons suffering from cancer previously had to seek medical attention overseas, mainly in Trinidad and Tobago, which is very costly. However, government has been providing financial assistance through the Ministry of Health for persons afflicted to travel overseas.

Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said that the infrastructural modification of the building and the re-enforcement of the foundation to house the linear accelerator are completed. The linear accelerator is the highest level of technology for radiation therapy for cancer patients.

The services offered will not be totally free. “There will be a level of cost recovery but this has not yet been determined,” Dr. Ramsammy said.

He said government will continue to provide funds to help others who find it difficult to pay for the services.

Indian Oncologist Dr. Preti Jain, who will be heading the programme, will be in Guyana by February 15. The technicians are scheduled to arrive on February 28 to install the linear accelerator, which is already in the building.

With this new service, all types of cancer will be treated and there will be no need for patients to travel overseas, the Health Minister said.

Cabinet on its outreach to Linden, on July 16, approved Guyana offering radiation oncology (study and treatment of tumours) within the next six months.

“I am very pleased with this programme, because it is the first time in the history of this country that it will be provided with State support,” President Jagdeo said.

Minister Ramsammy signed an agreement with Global Imaging Services of Chicago to provide a comprehensive radiotherapy programme for Guyanese.

The Government will increase activities to promote cancer treatment, but success will depend on all of us developing healthier lifestyles, he said.

“We must recognise that radiotherapy is not the only treatment available, it is only one part of the treatment,” he added.

In Guyana, breast, cervical and colorectal tumours are leading cancers among women, and prostate, lung and stomach cancers are the main types among men.

Research shows that more than 20 percent of cancers worldwide are due to chronic infection, mainly from hepatitis viruses (liver cancer), papilloma viruses (cervical cancer), and helicobacter pylori (stomach cancer).

Dr. Ramsammy also said that cancers like these allow for early screening and intervention to avoid development.

“Guyana is preparing to introduce public health screening programmes to test vulnerable populations for these chronic forms of infections,” Dr. Ramsammy said late last year.

Diet and lifestyle are also important areas for intervention and in this regard, Guyana's health promotion strategy will introduce various programmes to encourage people to eat healthier food and to exercise to reduce overweight and obesity which are associated with increased colon, breast, throat and kidney cancers.

Alcohol consumption is also associated with heightened risk for oral cavity, throat, liver and breast cancer, while high salt consumption is related to stomach cancer.

Two of the most common types of cancer among Guyanese women are cancer of the breast and cervix, but the others are not an exception. Women who are likely to develop this type of cancer are those who have had a family history of the disease.

A woman who develops an abnormal growth or lump in her breast should visit her doctor for mammogram or x-rays of the breast while cervical cancer can be detected through pap smears. (GINA)

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