Residents urged to be alert to risk factors of cancer

Clinical Oncologist Dr Lalitha Sripathi (Social media photo) (l) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Cancer Centre (Eastern Caribbean), Henry Hazel (Social media photo)
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By Latrishka Thomas

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“Very soon we are going to see like how diabetes and hypertension are, cancer is going to be like that,” Oncologist Dr Lalitha Sripathi posited in an effort to alert the public of the seriousness of “the big C”.

The doctor, while speaking on Observer AM yesterday, said prostate and colorectal cancer remain the most common types of the disease among men, while “in women, it is breast and cervical cancer although worldwide it is lung cancer”.

She admonished residents against partaking in certain activities that are known to cause cancer.

“It is very important to have a healthy diet with increased consumption of wholegrain foods and vegetables, decrease consumption of red meat, processed meat and to maintain a good weight, not be obese and to have an active lifestyle, not a sedentary lifestyle, to quit smoking, to quit drinking,” she encouraged.

Dr Sripathi also disclosed that grilling or barbecuing meat may cause some forms of the disease.

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Cancer Centre (Eastern Caribbean), Henry Hazel, also chimed in by imploring people to start “learning about the risk factors and do all that is within your powers to reduce your risks of getting cancer”.

He said, “Be very aware and be very responsible individually, get yourself checked out, learn about the symptoms and suspicious red flags and so on … and then if cancer is diagnosed, then there is a certain amount of pace that we have to maintain in terms of dealing with it.”

Hazel and Dr Sripathi also indicated that shame, hesitancy and a lack of awareness are major obstacles to mitigating against the spread of the disease.

“I think what I’ve seen so far is that cancer is still really stigmatised, so people tend to be very shy and embarrassed about it and they don’t want to have that knowledge go out outside of their family circles, even sometimes within their own family,” Hazel stated.

The doctor added that, “unfortunately, cancer awareness is very low in people so they don’t know, they don’t come up immediately, they ignore all the signs and symptoms, they usually present much later when the disease is advanced and we wouldn’t be of much help to them at that point in time.”

Sripathi further opined that cancer screening should be mandatory.

“For men with African ancestry, it is associated with increased risk of developing prostate cancer so it is advisable to men over the age of 40 to get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal examination done.

“Similarly, for women over the age of 21, a pap smear needs to be done every three years for cervical cancer – and for breast cancer, annual mammogram should be done from the age of 40,” he explained.

However, the oncologist advised persons with a family history of cancer to get tested at an earlier age.

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