ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44

Cancer Early Detection Centre to be set up by Rotary

By Esther Williams

"If you had the opportunity to save up to 4000 lives a year would you help?" At a charity luncheon on March 22 at Taj Samudra, the Rotary Club of Colombo made an appeal to members and others in the corporate sector to raise funds for the National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Centre.

It would come as a shock to many that of the approximately 13,000 new cases of cancer detected every year in the country, 8000 patients eventually succumb to the disease. Significantly about 50% of the deaths could have been prevented if the cancer had been detected early.

To mark its 75th anniversary, the Rotary Club of Colombo identified the need for a National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Centre, especially to serve the poorest section of the community, as 80% of cancer cases are from rural areas.

The luncheon was organised to raise funds to complete construction of the Early Detection Centre. First Lady, Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa graced the event where several participants made pledges for support.

Speaking on the occasion, President of the Club, Mike Masilamani said they kept at the project despite various setbacks - one being the demise of former President Nihal De Silva who spearheaded the project initially. "We have kept the faith and hope in the project which will be the first free cancer detection centre in the island," he added.

Reiterating the benefits of screening, Chairperson of the project, Nirmali Samaratunga (President elect) said it could make a difference between life and death - as patients can have either a complete cure, drastic reduction in surgery or a longer lifespan.

The distance of the current facility at Maharagama has been a problem. Further, with the emphasis there on therapeutic treatment rather than prevention, "priority for screening is low”. Appealing for generous donations, Nirmali said that the estimated cost of construction would be Rs. 35 million of which they already had Rs. 11 million.

Director, World Health Organization, Dr. Agostino Borra fully endorsed the project. "The problem is cancer is becoming prominent in the country and this project will address the issue," he said.

Cancer is a global disease with an increasing incidence according to Director, Cancer Institute, Maharagama, Dr. Kanishka Karunaratne. He pointed out that while 50 years ago most women died at child birth and associated diseases, now the same number of women died from the two most common cancers - breast and cervical, both of which are preventable. Apparently, around 5000 - 6000 succumb to this disease annually. Further, women outnumber men in cancer.

Stressing that the government cannot do it alone, he commended the Club for their meaningful initiative that can save the lives of women in their prime - often mothers between the ages 40 and 50.

The centrally located Early Detection Centre when completed will be managed by the Cancer Control Programme of the Cancer Institute, Maharagama, and provide a free service to the general public. Screening, investigation, counselling and prevention through education will be carried out in an atmosphere that ameliorates the stress of screening.

The centre would comprise three clinical examination rooms with facilities for risk assessment, history taking and clinical (including breast, vagina, rectal, oral and dental) examinations;colposcopy facilities for patients who test positive during pap smears; a health education unit for enhancing public awareness and counselling; a medical records and statistical unit to maintain computerised and hard-copy databases; facilities for pap smears and cyto-screening.

The Ministry of Health has provided the land for the centre at 549, Elvitigala Mawatha, Colombo. Construction work now in progress is scheduled to be completed by July 2007.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.