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May is Cancer Awareness Month – are you doing your part?

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Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2021. 10:46 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Belize Cancer Society has announced that its famous Cancer Walk from Ladyville to Belize City on the last Saturday in May, and similar activities elsewhere, are off for the second year running.

But the Society is asking Belizeans to live by its theme for Cancer Awareness Month: “I Am, and I Will: Do My Part to Ensure Access to Cancer Care in Belize.”

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Post, breast and cervical cancers disproportionately impact young women in Belize, exacerbating gender inequity in health care and disease prevention. Cervical cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Belize reported 86 cases of breast cancer in 2020; this cancer type has the highest incidence rate in Belize, followed by prostate, cervical, lung, and liver cancers.

Prostate cancer has the highest mortality, at a rate of 33 deaths in 2020, followed by lung, cervical, liver, and breast cancers.

Lung and cervical cancers are important preventable causes of morbidity and mortality that can be reduced by addressing exposure to risk factors (such as smoking) and implementing prevention programs (such as vaccines).

Despite the increase in the rate of screening for cervical cancer among women aged 21 to 35 years, many women still present with advanced disease.

By 2040, the total cancer burden in Belize is predicted to rise over tenfold, partially due to a lack of screening programs and low cancer awareness, many patients present with late-stage disease. The leading causes of cancer deaths in Belize can be addressed through screening, early detection, and effective treatment.

With statistics like the above, the Society declares that “Cancer continues to be a significant public health problem in Belize, Central America, and the Caribbean. It is evident now more than ever that we must develop strategies and mobilize efforts to mitigate the tremendous health burden on our country. It is only with intensified, collaborative efforts between public sector, private sector, governments, and civil society, that we will we be able to develop and strengthen existing mechanisms to support those affected by cancer and their families.

While the Society’s fundraising is choked off by the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to provide free education, individualized patient care, training to health professionals, adult, and paediatric patient navigation services for ease of access to treatment in-country, as well as cross-border referral and navigation to neighbouring treatment facilities in Mexico and Guatemala.

It concludes, “This month especially we urge you to take charge of your health and adapt a healthier lifestyle today! Get the facts on Cancer in Belize and do your part to support those in need. We invite you to support the work of the Society and those affected by Cancers and their family by contributing to our Atlantic Bank Account #100078278- Belize Cancer Society or by purchasing official cancer awareness merchandise via our headquarters.”

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