Friday, November 8, 2013

PNG has high Cancer cases in the Pacific region

Papua New Guinea has one of the highest number of mouth and throat cancer cases in the Pacific region, Health Minister Michael Malabag said.

“Betel nut chewing has association with cancer of the mouth,” he said.

“Papua New Guinea has the highest incidence of mouth cancer in the world.

“And I am sure this is attributed to the wide and rampant use of betel nuts in all corners of PNG by young and old. Cancers, including cancer of the mouth, can be prevented if the practice of betel nut chewing is stopped.”

The warning comes as Port Moresby prepares to totally ban betel nut sale and chewing from Friday.

Malabag said men had the highest risk of developing mouth cancer.

But women are quickly picking up on it because of the increase in the number of women chewing betel nuts and smoking.

He warned that the health system did not have enough cancer treatment specialists and equipment.
And practising suicidal habits such as betel nut chewing was avoidable.

“More than 90% of mouth cancer patients seen at the Port Moresby General Hospital oral surgery
clinic are associated with betel nut chewing,” he said.

“Environmental hygiene is equally important as unhygienic conditions can stimulate disease outbreaks such as malaria.

“When drainages are blocked with betel nut skins, it creates stagnant water where mosquitoes breed easily.”

Malabag said everyone can promote a healthy environment because PNG had adopted the healthy island concept.

“People must be seen to be promoting healthy settings in their communities.

“It is of good health and hygiene that, from this day on, we all should consider making the right choice – stop chewing betel nut,” Malabag said.

Meanwhile, cancer cases in the country are soaring because of betel nut chewing by the people, a dentist says.

Dr Matupi Apaio, the Oro-Maxillo-Facial clinic chief dentist, told a public health event last Friday that 98% of mouth cancer patients chewed buai.

He said the health department was promoting healthy mouth and awareness of the risk of developing mouth cancer.

He said betel nut chewing had become rampant and practised in all communities. In the past, he said betel nut use was restricted in villages to certain groups of people at traditional events only.

“Children as young as five are chewing betel nut which has tremendously increased the chances of developing mouth cancer at an early age,” Matupi said.

“Mouth cancer is deadly and prevention by avoiding the risk factors is important. It is the main cause of mouth cancer in PNG.”

Matupi said the risk of cancer was greatly increased when combined with smoking and excessive use of alcohol.

More than 140 patients were reported to the Oro-Maxillo-Facial clinic between 2010 and 2012.

However, he said others treated at the Port Moresby General Hospital were not recorded and the number was growing rapidly.

Matupi said 98% of mouth cancer patients were betel nut chewers.

He told the people at the event that oral health was just as important as general health.

“It comprises some of the very vital body structures that we use every day for speech, eating, digestion and good looks which contributes to the general health and our wellbeing,” Matupi said.