Cancer kills one a week

National, Normal

The National, Monday October 28th, 2013


CANCER kills despite available in-country treatment and on-going clinical efforts, statistics gathered over a three-month period from PNG’s only cancer treatment centre at Angau Hospital in Lae reveals. 

The centre offers the only radiotherapy treatment in the country but patients still succumb, up to one death a week, minders and patients said.

As of last week, it was confirmed that 19 patients have lost their lives while undergoing treatment within the three-month period and a similar number of “hopeless” cases (terminal) were discharged.

“They have gone home to await their deaths),” is the grim reality that patients within the 36-bed facility have resigned themselves to. 

Care-givers Jason Koit of Kabwum and John Zebuye of Morobe Patrol Post spoke of their harrowing experiences after successfully acquiring voluntary discharges for their relatives last week.  

Zebuye left with his elder brother Noine Zebuye, a mouth cancer patient, for Siu village, in Waria LLG of the Morobe Patrol Post last Thursday.

Koit left with his uncle, Yokomo Heringke, for Dalugelomon village, in Kabwum district on Saturday.

Noine was admitted one-and-a-half-weeks ago, after being an outpatient for well over two years, Zebuye said.

Heringke left after six months of treatment that did nothing to arrest his deterioration. 

Both minders have resigned themselves to the inevitable and prefer their relatives dying at home rather than at Angau.

“I had waited and hoped but I now see that there is nothing else the hospital can do for my brother,” Zebuye said of Noine.

“I want to take him home before he closes his eyes,” another all-too familiar phrase uttered by minders. 

Centre director and the only radiation oncologist in the country Dr John Niblett had admitted that most cases referred to the centre were stages 3 and 4, which are terminal and mostly hopeless.

“We can’t do much for them,” he said, an admission that is evident in the two wards. 

An improving female patient, a rarity in a landscape of decay, misery and death, said these cases are sadly hopeless because they do not respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

With limited beds, and an estimated 2,000 cases every year, their discharge is inevitable to free up beds for the queue of referrals from all over PNG.

“Early detection offers the best chance for cure,” Niblett had said.