Cancer treatment in Papua New Guinea
Cancer treatment in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a major concern. In the past prior to the discovery of HIV and AIDS, cancer was considered a killer disease and more focus was on this disease by government agencies, NGOs and organizations. More funding, awareness campaigns and treatment measures were taken for this particular disease. However, today the focus has been shifted to cured HIV and AIDs and cancer remains the unnoticeable killer disease in PNG.
THE Health Department is on a search to find alternatives to improve cancer treatment in the country, despite having scarce manpower in this specialty.
Acting Health Secretary Dr Paison Dakulala has told reporters it had been now three weeks since enquiries and talks had been held with various people for the possibility of purchasing a new and modern technology to treat cancer.
He said the cobalt machine at PNG’s only cancer treatment centre at Angau Hospital in Lae was an old one and was part of the cobalt machines that were used in 1960s and 1970s. As a result, he said, it was a bit difficult to find people specialized in this machine, around.
Dr Dakulala said Dr John Niblett who had worked at the cancer unit in the past year and was now working with the Health Department for the renewal of his contract was among a few that were around that could operate this machine.
He said there were also plans in the pipeline to train radio oncologists, but these people would be like any other specialist doctors , would have to train and work for years before they would be qualified as oncologists.
In the meantime, he said, the only way to beat cancer in this country is to make people aware of the need for them to go for early check up.
For instance, for breast cancer, he said, there were mammograms in a couple of health facilities in Port Moresby, including the Port Moresby General Hospital where women can go for check-up. They can also do their own breast checks and report any abnormal signs or growths.
There are also pap smear tests being conducted for cervical cancer at various provincial hospitals as well as at the Port Moresby general Hospital and a number of privately-run health facilities.
Pacific International Hospital, a private-run hospital, is also giving vaccines to young girls to protect them against cervical cancer.
Dr Dakulala said cancer diseases were caused by various factors, including environment and lifestyle. Among the common cancer, he said, was mouth cancer which he said was caused mostly from chewing betelnut and urged that people take care of their own health rather than always putting the blame on health problems on the government.
The following types of cancers are common in PNG.
Colon and Rectal Cancer
Kidney (Renal Cell) Cancer
Treatment plants are located in Lae and Port Moresby but they are unreliable and constantly break down.