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May 21, 2002

Cancer hospice no longer a dream

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It’s an idea, like many, that has been around for a good while. But unlike most, this one is rapidly becoming a reality. News 5′s

Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

It took some time, but finally work on the country’s first Hospice and Cancer Centre has commenced. The building’s first floor is scheduled to be completed later this year. Chairperson of the building committee and Secretary of the Belize Cancer Society, Kathy Esquivel, says the delay was caused due to lack of funds, but thanks to the support from concerned individuals, three weeks ago construction started on the two storey Ferro concrete building.

Kathy Esquivel, Secretary, Belize Cancer Society

“We felt that we had to put the money together, at least a large portion of it and since then we have gone out and we have gotten a lot of support. For instance, I must thank Emile Mena because the Mena family donated the piles for us. And Ternel drove the piles at a reduced rate. Mr. Antonio Gonzales is our senior contractor for free and he is contracting out the work. And so it was to put everything in place, and we are very pleased with the response. And of course if anybody else would like to donate in kind or in money, we would appreciate that.”

The hospice was the dream of former president of the Belize Cancer Society, Juliet Orosco Soberanis. Soberanis lost her battle with breast cancer in 1998…almost one year after she broke ground on the project.

Kathy Esquivel

“We feel and certainly it was Juliet’s dream to have a hospice where the terminally ill can end their days in dignity and in comfort.”

The hospice and cancer centre is one building that contractor Antonio Gonzales looks forward to constructing…and has contributed his services at no charge.

Antonio Gonzales, Contractor

“From the very beginning, as a team, my wife and myself, she got involve in the organisation and then she spoke to me about it. She said this is a good cause, so I figured I could contribute also.”

There are many services that cancer patients will be able to access at the centre including clinics by cancer specialists. Chairman of the Scientific Committee for the Belize Cancer Society, Dr. Hugh Sanchez says because there is no national cancer registry, it is not known just how many people are living with the condition.

Dr. Hugh Sanchez, Chairman, Scientific Committee

“By us not having a cancer registry where all the information will be documented and correlated, as a result we just have sort of ad hoc statistics that we pick up from time to time for those who utilise the laboratory service. It will not include people who may go to Chetumal or to America or elsewhere for treatment. Those cases will not be recorded.”

Tests conducted at the Central Medical Lab from 1993 to 2002 indicate that cervical cancer is most prevalent cancer in women.

Dr. Hugh Sanchez

“We have about eighty-eight cases of cervical cancer that we have diagnosed here. That does not include those cases which may have been diagnosed abroad, or had the signs and symptoms and they went abroad and got treatment. Those cases are not recorded in our system. So based on that, and based on the overall number of cancer cases we see, cervical cancer outstrips the others by a far margin.”

One cause of cervical cancer is a virus that is transmitted by sexual intercourse. Dr. Sanchez says the cancer has also been associated with cigarette smoking. Meanwhile prostate cancer remains the most common disease affecting men.

Dr. Hugh Sanchez

“We have seen about twenty-six cases of prostate cancer in Belize. those are what have come to our department, we’re not saying about those that go abroad or go in the private sector or so.”

Each year, the Belize Cancer Society promotes early detection and prevention to save people’s lives.

Dr. Hugh Sanchez

“It’s truly heart rending when you see a young person, thirty-two, dying of cervical cancer. Which means that if they had done a pap smear at age twenty-two, they would been able their normal selves and certainly by age twenty-five, they could have definitely diagnosed what is wrong and treatment could have been put in place.”

This year cancer month is being observed under the theme “Be Aware, Know the facts and Take Charge.”

Kathy Esquivel

“Because we feel treatment is the last resort. What we want to do is try and make it so people don’t get to that stage, although we know some people do.”

Esquivel says the society will be working towards establishing a National Cancer Registry that would help them to know how many people are affected and what other measures can be taken to address the problem. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

Other activities planned for the month include the annual cancer walk on June first, and a social event for cancer survivors and their families. If you would like to assist the Belize Cancer Society, you can call their office at 227-4015


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