Importance of Screening Examination in Curbing Cancer in PNG

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with around 5200 deaths reported in 2014. There were nearly 2300 cancer deaths in males and 2900 cancer deaths in females,with oral cancer being the most common in PNG males and cervical cancer being the most common in PNG females (CDC 2013, WHO 2014).

The 5 most common cancers among PNG males and females (WHO 2014):

Males Females
Oral and lip cancer (527 cases) Cervical cancer (938 cases)
Liver cancer (334 cases) Breast Cancer (848 cases)
Prostate cancer (245 cases) Oral and lip cancer (475 cases)
Colorectal cancer (198 cases) Thyroid cancer (248 cases)
Lung cancer (196 cases) Uterine or corpus uteri cancer (231 cases)

Making screening tests a regular habit

Why cancer screening?

Cancer screening is necessary to detect cancer even before symptoms appear. The benefits of screening include cancer prevention, early detection, successive treatment and extended life. This usually involves blood tests, urine tests or medical imaging.

Common screening procedures for cancers

Mammogram for breast cancer examination

A Mammogram is a low-dose X-ray procedure to see the internal structure of the breast, and is commonly used in examination of breast cancer. A mammogram can show the earliest signs of breast cancer even before it can be felt by the woman or her physician.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer:

  1. Family history or personal history of cancer.
  2. Advancing age – Females above 55yrs of age are more prone to breast cancer.
  3. Genetics– The genetic mutations of genes.
  4. Overweight females produce more estrogen. Estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers to develop and grow.
  5. Alcohol consumption and smoking
  6. Late pregnancies can also subject a female to risks for breast cancer.

Preventing breast cancer majorly depends upon how proactive you are with regular screening, self-examination of breast and lifestyle changes.

Getting an annual check-up for females above 25 years of age is recommended by doctors to keep a check on any pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in breast. Women with personal history or family history of cancer are encouraged to have a scan done every 3 months and later every 6 months.

Breast cancer is depicted by pink colour ribbon

Pap SMEAR test for cervical cancer detection

PAP Smear is a test to detect any cancerous development early in the cervix.The procedure involves collecting cells from the cervix so that they can be looked at under a microscope to find cancer and pre-cancers.

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer:

  1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections are strongly linked to cancersof the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women, penile cancer in men.
  2. Tobacco consumption and smoking in women can damage the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to the development of cervical cancer.
  3. Chlamydia is a very common infection of female reproductive tract, spread by sexual contact that can lead to pelvic inflammations and even infertility.
  4. Having a family history of cervical cancer increases the chances of developing the disease by 2 to 3 times.
  5. Having multiple sexual partners, compromised immune system or having HIV.

Keeping a check on the risk factors and modifying lifestyle accordingly can help a lot in preventing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer gives the most positive treatment outcome if detected early. Regular screening for women aged 25 years and above can help in reducing the number of cases as well as the complications associated with this cancer.

Cervical cancer is depicted by teal and white colour ribbon.

Colonoscopy for detecting cancer in colon/rectum

Colonoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure used to detect any abnormal growth in the large intestine. Any changes in the rectum and entire colon can be detected using a thin flexible tube inserted in the rectum. This is a preferred and generally painless screening method to detect colorectal cancer and other GI Tract related ailments.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer or Bowel Cancer:

  1. Having a family history or polyp in intestine.
  2. Diseases like Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis or diabetes are associated with colon/rectum cancer.
  3. Certain types of diets, one that is high in red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats.
  4. Smoking and heavy use of alcohol, lack of exercise and physical inactivity are all by default risk factors for bowel cancer as well as many other diseases.

Colorectal cancer being one of the most common cancers among males in PNG requires attention as well as knowledge about how to prevent it. Few risk factors like having a family history cannot be changed but other including changes in the diet, following healthy lifestyle as well as regular screening always goes a long way in saving you from colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is depicted by dark blue colour ribbon

PSA test for prostate cancer examination

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide in men and ranks to be the third most common cancer in PNG. Any abnormality in the prostate can be detected early by getting a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test done. The test involves having a blood test done and finding the amount of the prostate specific antigen in blood released by the prostate. A higher amount of PSA depicts abnormality with the prostate, which then requires further tests to confirm the diagnosis.

 Risk factors of prostate cancer include:

  1. Age- The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially in men over 50 years.
  2. Family History –Prostate cancer that runs in a family is called familial prostate cancer. The family with history of breast cancer increases the chances of males to have prostate cancer.
  3. Smoking.

Getting a PSA test done annually can help in detecting prostate cancer early. Males after 45 years of age should regularly get this blood test done to detect this cancer in time.

Prostate cancer is depicted by light blue colour ribbon

Dental checkups for detecting oral cancer

Many dentists check for mouth or oro-pharyngeal cancer. So they are often the first to spot these cancers in their patients.

Risk factors of oropharyngeal cancers:

  1. Chewing Buai is a widely practised habit in PNG, which is directly associated with oral cancer. It’s been studied that the substance released from the areca nut cause changes in the oral mucosa that subjects a person to oral cancer.
  2. Smoking tobacco and drinking too much alcohol.Cigarettes and alcohol contain nitrosamines and other chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
  3. A poor diet may lead to lack of vitamins and minerals, such as iron or folic acid.
  4. Human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause genetic changes in cells that make individuals more prone to oral cancer.

Prevention entirely depends upon realising the seriousness of the condition and giving up habits that can lead to such cancers.

Oral cancer is depicted by red and white colour

Pacific International Hospital encourages screening tests for early detection of cancers and is offering exclusive cancer screening packages to the people of PNG.