Health Minister promises improved cancer care as hundreds walk to raise awareness
Hundreds of Guyanese along with senior government members, representatives of the diplomatic community, and cancer advocates, fighters and survivors participated in the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on Sunday.
Hosted by the Guyana Cancer Foundation, energetic sympathisers and sponsors ended the walk at the Kingston, Seawall bandstand with a promise from Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony that the government will soon deliver on promised improved cancer care at health facilities across the country.
That assurance came after calls were made by two cancer survivors, Alicia Sugrim and Nicola Shultz, for the state to improve on the testing and treatment offered locally, particularly its affordability.
Shultz, a thyroid cancer survivor, chronicled her experience seeking treatment abroad while noting that the support offered on Sunday was noteworthy and needed 365 days a year.
“Especially in hospitals, more needs to be done… I would suggest a special hospital for cancer,” she noted.
Dr. Anthony welcomed the concern and said he was happy that more people were talking about cancer.
“Yes, lots more need to be done to do prevention and treatment and we plan to deliver on improving cancer care,” Dr. Anthony said.
He underscored the importance of early detection as one of the mantras shouted on Sunday was “early detection saves lives.”
Among women breast cancer is most prevalent with a high mortality rate. But a significant number of women are also dying from cervical cancer. It stands as the second most prevalent cancer.
And while the government is working with international partners to improve general oncology treatment, the Health Minister reminded that cervical cancer is preventable.
To this end, he encouraged the uptake of HPV vaccines which have long been available locally.
The government is in talks with the Mount Sinai health system to develop a center for excellence for oncology in Guyana for which construction will start soon.
There, persons will be able to seek treatment for various types of cancers.
Dr. Anthony also acknowledged that treatments like a biopsy are expensive locally with lengthy wait periods to get results.
“So, one of the things we want to introduce is telepathology where we will take the samples and send the image abroad for quick reading.
“Many things will be happening in the area of oncology.”
Dr. Anthony said there remained a need for continuous education toward early detection and a change in behaviour.