By Aaron Humes: The Belize Cancer Society is aiming its focus on World Cancer Day tomorrow, Friday, on raising awareness on the inequitable access to screening and cancer care services in countries like Belize which result in late cancer diagnoses and deaths.
In Belize, per data from the Ministry of Health (2020), there were 340 newly diagnosed persons with cancers and 260 cancer deaths in 2020.
Cancer Society President Laura Longsworth makes note that Belize continues to improve its capacity to provide diagnostic, medical, and surgical interventions for cancer, as well as chemotherapy services to its citizens. There are basic screening services being offered in public health facilities that are limited based on geographical location.
There is a resident Oncologist and chemotherapy suite at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. The Belize Cancer Center Dangriga continues to provide chemotherapy to thousands of Belizeans, and have expanded their services to the Belize Cancer Center-Belize City which was recently launched by the Belize Cancer Society. However, radiation therapy, which is a gold standard in treating cancer, is not available in Belize.
Costs continue to be high, forcing patients to travel to Guatemala and Mexico; even testing is proving to be more costly, and there is a decided ignorance of lifestyle changes that can reduce the incidence of the disease.
Longsworth concludes, “The Belize Cancer Society continues to be concerned about the fragmented system of cancer care services that exist in our country. We renew our call to all stakeholders, the public and private sectors, the Ministry of Health and health care professionals to establish a Comprehensive Cancer Care Program for the people of Belize. This must include the formalization of a Cancer Registry and taking immediate action to create access to radiation services as well as the formulation of plans for the establishment of a radiation facility in Belize.”