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Local oncologist Dr. Owen Gabriel is reporting that more men are dying from cancer in St. Lucia.
Dr. Gabriel told St Lucia News Online (SNO) on Thursday, April, 17 that while there is no statistical evidence to prove this, based on the increasing trend of reported cases of prostate cancer on the island, one can say that cancer is more prevalent among the male population.
“The majority of people who die of cancer in Saint Lucia, die of prostate cancer, and that only affects males,” he explained.
The oncologist believes that cancer is a major public health problem, which needs serious attention and intervention.
“It is on par with diabetes and hypertension and probably it has a greater impact on our population as far as mortality is concerned,” he noted.
Increasing cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and other blood disorders are reported daily, but according to Dr. Gabriel, stomach cancer is another type of cancer that is slowly rising on the island.
He said cancer on the whole is something that has to be addressed by the authorities, particularly the health ministry. However, he said in order to achieve greater success, it will take a collaborative effort by cancer support groups, the Cancer Society and corporate citizens.
The local oncologist further told SNO that while assistance is provided to a few patients with screening, early diagnosis, management and some treatment, all of these are expensive interventions, which require financial support and resources.
Screening for breast cancer patients is an expensive undertaking, much less the surgical aspect.
“It is an unending battle… this will be something that will need a national focus and national attention,” he said, adding that with the limited human and technological resources, it is even more challenging.
Dr. Gabriel said that while Saint Lucia is able manage the diagnosis of cancer in patients, provide surgical interventions and chemotherapy, 60-70 per cent of cancer patients require radio therapy, which is not available here. Therefore, patients most likely have to seek that treatment overseas.
Cancer remains one of the main causes of death in Saint Lucia. The island is ranked seventh in the world for prostate cancer being the leading cause of death at a rate of 23.75 per cent per 100,000.
Breast cancer is second followed by lymphomas, third.
Through a regional cancer network programme, Saint Lucia has been partnering with the Government of Martinique to assist with training. Martinique treats hundreds of foreign cancer patients annually — majority of them are Saint Lucians.