PRESS RELEASE – Statistics gathered from the Victoria Hospital over a decade indicate, that Gastro-Intestinal cancers or digestive caners have now surpassed in prevalence, prostate and breast cancer.
Gastro-Intestinal Cancers includes cancers of the oesophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, bowel (large intestine or colon and rectum), and anus.
This revelation came from Consultant Oncologist at the Victoria Hospital, Dr. Owen Gabriel who presented a paper at the International Meeting of the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium in Martinique in 2013. The data from the Victoria Hospital illustrated the changing trends in cancer prevalence and incidence in St. Lucia.
“We would like to extend the coverage of a population based registry that would give us a better idea of what’s happening in the north, south and different parts of the island.”
Though some types of cancers run in certain families most cancers are a result from lifestyle factors such as tobacco and alcohol use, poor diet, physical inactivity, certain types of infections and environmental exposure to various types of chemicals and radiation. Dr. Gabriel added that in urban areas there is a prevalence of Gastro-intestinal cancers as there is a tendency towards more fast foods.
” In our case, which is not proven, one has to consider the industrial use of agricultural products in our banana industry, in our agricultural industry, which go into our ecosystem, the soil, the water, the food that we consume and eventually cause those kinds of mutations in the cells of our body which would lead to cancer eventually.”
The Consultant Oncologist stressed that the mainstay of cancer control is prevention and a third of most cancers are preventable though lifestyle changes.
“Prevention means that you first identify which factors are common in producing those cancers and try to avoid them. A lot has to do with your ability to avoid the smoking habit, avoiding alcohol, having a healthy diet, exercising and so on and trying to live a healthy life style.”
He added that solar radiation, Ultraviolet-B rays from the sun are well known causes of skin cancer and encourages the use of long sleeved clothing, hats and sun blocks. He also points the vast amount of information related to cancer which persons can use to educate themselves on the issue.
In reference to the eminent move of the Victoria Hospital to the Owen King EU Hospital, Dr. Gabriel made it clear that the new hospital should not be viewed as the panacea for all our medical problems.
“One should not expect the whole health profile to change in a short space of time. We need to address our basic health issues, which would be prevention and control at our primary level of care. And once you are able to do these things what you will have as a ripple effect is that you have fewer patients developing diseases.”
“You also have the ability to diagnose diseases at an earlier stage and therefore the need for treatment, all modalities of treatment, will be reduced and therefore the cost of healthcare will be reduced and in the end what we will have is a better outcome for everybody else. So the hospital in itself in not the answer to everything. It is part of a process but the process has to start at the very basic level, it’s primary care and at the level of individuals and their families and their communities.”
Dr. Gabriel also pointed out the important role churches, youth groups, mass organizations and NGO’s should play in creating a culture of health consciousness, prevention and control of diseases.