New cancer cases up 10 per cent

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CT simulator (c) Jason BorgMALTA - The incidence of new cancer cases has increased by about 10 per cent over the past decade with a staggering 1,400-odd cases being registered annually.

As high as this figure might sound, the incidence of cancer in Malta is not higher than in other Western countries, Stephen Brincat, the chairman of the Radiotherapy and Oncology Department at Sir Paul Boffa Hospital, said.

Although he believes that information about the importance of early detection is widely available in Malta, he highlighted the importance of concentrating on reducing the incidence of cancer, especially those that could be prevented through a healthy lifestyle.

He said smoking will be causing big problems in the near future. In fact, although a few years ago the incidence of lung cancer among women was very low, this was rapidly catching up.

Cervical cancer is another concern for oncologists, with 132 new cases reported between 1992 and 2002. Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), a vaccine against which became available on the local market this month. Dr Brincat said that if he had the funds he would vaccinate all girls. A three-jab course costs Lm183.

The vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co, has raised eyebrows among some parents who wonder whether vaccinating their children would amount to giving them permission to have sex. Questioned about this, Dr Brincat said whether young girls were vaccinated would hardly impact on their sexual activity, and he would much rather see young women and girls getting the vaccine. Would he vaccinate his own children? Yes, he said. If caught early, cervical cancer would in many cases lead to a hysterectomy and intensive radiotherapy if it is far advanced.

On a positive note, women with breast cancer and men suffering from prostate cancer are having treatment earlier, Dr Brincat said.

New equipment purchased for Sir Paul Boffa Hospital will be helping doctors in the treatment of cancer. The CT simulator allows doctors to see the exact position of a tumour, which would lead to more precise treatment. Dr Brincat said the images also enable doctors to increase the dose of radiation.

The Lm331,450 piece of equipment - which will be transported to Zammit Clapp Hospital when the hospital moves there - was half funded by the Health Division with the rest of the funds coming from the Malta Cancer Foundation, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Maria Bugeja Cancer Support Foundation. Boffa Hospital also dug into its coffers and funded Lm40,000 of the expenditure.

The CT simulator was inaugurated by Health Minister Louis Deguara on Thursday.

source - Times of Malta 

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