Alarming increase in cancer patients

By Don Asoka Wijewardena

The number of patients affected by various types of cancers had risen alarmingly since 2009, Health Ministry said. Upto 2009 around 14,000 cases had been detected annually but it had reached an annual figure of 20,000, it added.

The Ministry said 10 types of cancers—oral, cervical, thyroid, esophagus, lung, womb, breast, rectum, brain, blood, and prostrate—were common in Sri Lanka.

National Cancer Control Programme Director Ms. Dr. Neelamani Paranagama told The Island that the time had come to adopt preventive measures and early detection of the deadly disease, because there were now around 60,000 cancer patients in the country.

She pointed out that due to unhealthy lifestyles, congenital and hereditary defects and abnormality in the genes, many people had the tendency to have cancer.

Due to betel chewing, smoking and the consumption of the liquor, many people were afflicted by oral, lung and brain cancers.

Likewise the death rate of cancer victims had gone up, she said.

Dr. Ms. Paranagama added that about 90 per cent of the oral cancer cases detected were due to chewing betel. Lime, tobacco and arecanut contained cancer causing substances. "Due to betel chewing, the mucus membrane of the tongue gets bruised. Some people retain betel in the mouth even during sleep. Those people will definitely develop oral cancer," she said, noting that 1,878,000 patients visited the Maharagama Cancer Institute OPD for treatment every year.

Dr. Ms. Paranagama said that a widespread Cancer control programme consisting of the Primary Prevention, Early detection, Proper Diagnosis of the disease, treatment, rehabilitation, administering of pain-killers, launching research activities on the disease, Identification of the core factors leading to cancer and the prevention had been set up by the Health Ministry.

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