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May 31, 2012

Health Symposium garners awareness for cancer month

Cancer Awareness has become part of the national dialogue since the diagnosis of Kim Simplis Barrow. Throughout this month, a number of activities have been held to build awareness of the disease that afflicts men, women and children from all walks of life. Last weekend thousands participated in a walk from Ladyville to Belize City organized by the Belize Cancer Society; today health professionals attended a symposium that discussed treatment options available locally and overseas. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A consortium of health professionals, doctors and other caregivers primarily responsible for the treatment of cancer, gathered today for a symposium being held at the Whitfield Tower.  The seminar, organized in part by the Belize Cancer Society in honor of Cancer Awareness Month, served as a platform for a discussion on the study and treatment of malignant tumors.  Dr. Isidora Arzu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas.

 

Isidora Arzu

Dr. Isidora Arzu, Associate Professor, University of Texas

“As we are living longer, cancer becomes a more chronic illness and with the advent of the Belize Cancer Center in Dangriga we’re seeing more people who are able to take advantage of getting chemotherapy here and going outside of Belize to get radiation therapy.  Radiation is not available here so I think that we’re beginning to see some of those long term survivors as well as patients who are just finishing with their treatment.  And I’m sure that some people are noticing some of the side effects that they are having so I’ll speak to some of that.”

 

According to Dr. Ellsworth Grant, co-founder of the Belize Cancer Center, the facility, which opened its doors to the public in 2008, focuses mainly on the chemical treatment of cancer.

 

Ellsworth Grant

Dr. Ellsworth Grant, Medical Director, Belize Cancer Center

“Our support really goes to giving chemotherapy, supporting people who need to go outside the country to receive radiation, especially the women with cervical cancer which is the, depending on the month you look at, either the most common or second most common cancer.  Cervical and breast cancer tend to run neck and neck in being the most common cancers.”

 

Cancer treatment, experts say, comes in two forms, radiation and chemotherapy, both of which are known to have side effects.

 

Dr. Isidora Arzu

“For patients undergoing radiation therapy the side effects really depends on the site that they are being treated.  So for patients who have cancer of the head and neck, for instance, it’s more obvious that they’ve gotten radiation therapy because one: they lose the hair, if they’re a man they lose the beard.  They also have a lot of skin reaction where the skin looks like it has a really bad sunburn.  And, of course, if they’re getting radiation therapy to the abdomen and pelvis like in cervix cancer and metralgial cancer then because you have the bowel that’s in the field then you tend to have more problems with diarrhea and so those are some of the issues that I’m addressing today.”

 

Today’s seminar on cancer treatment ironically coincides with World No Tobacco Day, a primary factor in causing lung cancer.  Dr. Peter Allen, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Health, reiterated that early detection is the best means through which cancer can be treated successfully.

 

Peter Allen

Dr. Peter Allen, C.E.O.  Ministry of Health

“Today is actually World No Tobacco Day also, and as you know tobacco is one of the principal causes of cancer.  Cancer is really a very complex group of disease.  It has many factors which cause or help to cause it and it is treated in many different ways and anybody who’s ever had cancer or knows somebody who has had cancer will be aware that cancer is also treated by a whole group of different people.  One of the things that we are emphasizing today is the need for all of those people to work together in a partnership.  A need for all of those people to collaborate in terms of generating information and sharing information and referring patients to the appropriate treatment according to the appropriate protocols.  One of the most important things is early detection.  Successful treatment of cancer really depends on early detection.”

 

The Cancer Care Symposium officially brought to an end activities in commemoration of the month-long initiative. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

The number of persons afflicted with the disease in Belize is still not known, so the Cancer Society is compiling a registry.

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