Around 60 to 70 new cancer patients are being diagnosed daily in Sri Lanka and it is the second leading cause of death globally as well as in Sri Lanka. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer, a seminar was told.
Consultant Community Physician Dr. Nayana De Alwis said Oral cancer and breast cancer are the commonest cancers among males and females in Sri Lanka respectively.
“About one-third of the cancers can be prevented and another one third can have better health outcomes if detected and treated early,” she added.
Dr. De Alwis told media personnel at a seminar held to mark the ‘World Cancer Day’ under the theme “I am I will” for the media at the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) today that around one-third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks, namely high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use.
“Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths,” she stressed.
Director, National Cancer Control Programme, Dr. Janaki Vidanapathirana said cancer-causing infections, such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25% of cancer cases in low and middle-income countries.
“Air pollution contributes to 29% of the lung cancer deaths in the world. Late-stage presentation and delays in diagnosis and treatment are major concerns. The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion in the world,” she emphasised.
Consultant Community Physician, Dr Suraj Perera stressing the need to take preventive measures to keep cancer at bay said refraining from smoking, consuming smokeless tobacco and areca nuts in the form of betel or other commercial products are the sure ways to prevent cancer.
Eat a healthy diet (Lots of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Limit red meat and cut out processed meats), maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, get immunised Some cancers can be prevented through vaccination - HPV and hepatitis vaccines, talk to your health care professional, know your family medical history on cancer and get regular cancer screening, if you are keen to be safe from cancer,” Dr. Perera said.
Currently, there are 23 cancer treatment centres in the country and it will be upgraded in the near future. Palliative care services have been evolved gradually in the island and with the recent introduction of a palliative care strategic plan and the post-graduate diploma, the quality of palliative care service provision has been improved.
However, health-seeking behaviour of the community to obtain these free cancer-related facilities still seems to be poor. Many cancers in Sri Lanka are being diagnosed at late stages and it leads to poor health outcomes and significantly higher healthcare costs. Therefore, it is a responsibility as well as the right of each citizen in the county to utilise these cancer related free services at the correct time to have better healthcare outcomes. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)