NGO to conclude breast cancer awareness month with walk around Malé

The Cancer Society of Maldives (CMS) will conclude the breast cancer awareness month with a walk/run around the capital Malé on Thursday (October 30).

“Breast cancer survivors are going to participate in the walk. There will also be a CMS stall at Raalhugandu raising awareness about breast cancers and women’s boduberu at Raalhugandu during the walk,” said Chairperson Juwairiya Saeed.

According to Aasandha usage statistics, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Maldives, with the most number of cases coming from Malé and Addu City.

Prevention of non-communicable diseases – including cancer – is a focus of the government’s 2006 -2015 Health Master Plan.

An awareness campaign was held from October 12 to 16 at the Huravee Building in association with the Table Tennis association of Maldives where members of the public were invited to play table tennis and donate money for the cause.

“Our main aim this month is to raise awareness and we have been doing so by conducting session about breast cancer every Wednesday night. Our sessions are focused at promoting self-diagnosis so that the cancer is detected in the early stages where it is easily curable,” explained Juwairiya.

The cancer society of Maldives is cut launched an SMS quiz about breast cancer as part of the awareness campaigns with a chance of winning a weekend for two at Reveries Diving Villa at Laamu Atoll. Participants must SMS ‘BC’ to 360 and answer all 10 questions correctly to be entered for the prize.

In February, CMS conducted a breast cancer screening at Addu City with the help of voluntary doctors from Singapore with plans to make the screenings an annual event to be held at a different atoll every year.

Juwairiya said that the association plans to establish a psycho-social support group for cancer patients, survivors and family members while highlighting the importance of eliminating the current social stigma surrounding cancer.

“CMS is also working on trying to establish a cancer database detailing the locations of the cancer patients, the expenses incurred for the treatment in order to identify suitable treatment methods. World Health Organization has expressed interest in the project,” said Juwairiya.


Free cervical cancer screening service at DhamanaVeshi

Health Protection Agency has begun cervical cancer screening at “Dhamana Veshi” (formerly Male’ Health Center), Vnews has reported.

According to the Ministry of Health the service will be provided one day every week, and 25 appointment for screening will be issued.

According to the Ministry, the first phase of this project – funded by UNFPA – will be implemented with assistance from Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

The service will be provided as a public health service without any charge. The Health Ministry recommends women of 30 – 50 years to take this test at least once every five years. The service was part of the Health Ministry’s ‘first hundred days plan‘.


Private healthcare group contemplates Maldives’ cancer treatment limitations

HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG), an Indian-based supplier of specialist cancer treatments, is in the Maldives this week to consult with authorities and private medical companies over possible partnerships to treat the disease, an area of medicine that health officials is limited locally.

Speaking today to Minivan News, Bhavani Shankar, head of international marketing for HCG, said the company was in the early stages of consulting private and public healthcare providers in the country, along with the operators of Male’s ADK hospital and Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IMGH) over a number of potential opportunities for cancer treatment.

“Basically there is no cancer treatment here. Only a few facilities are there; medical oncology, chemotherapy and some small investigation procedures are available in the Maldives,” he claimed. “Most people are flying to India [for cancer treatment], about 600 to 750 people are doing this each year.”

Claiming to operate more than 18 specialist centres across India and South Asia either directly or through partnerships , Shankar said that the company was experienced in providing specialised surgeries and state of the art cancer treatments throughout the region.

“We have a variety of facilities and technologies such as the ‘CyberKnife’ robotic radio surgery, radiotherapy as well as offering other surgical procedures,” he said. “We can offer screening in the country before considering flying people out to India for treatment, which is the easiest option.”

In contemplating potential healthcare roles or business opportunities within the country, the HCG spokesperson said the company was keen to work with both private and public partners in terms of supplying technical knowhow or training for doctors and nurses alongside NGOs. Given the limitations of Maldivians in the country travelling abroad for health reasons due to income, Shankar said he believed that there were a number of treatment options it could make available for the population.

“We are focusing on both kinds of things [private and public cooperation], we are trying to help even the people who cannot afford treatments as well. We have different options actually, but this depends on what the hospitals and health bodies can manage,” he added. “We are open; whether the government is able to fund a small cancer care centre or through work with a private partner, we are looking for both [opportunities].”

At present, the Maldives’ State Minister for Health, Abdul Bari Abdulla, said that there was no budget in the country specifically for cancer prevention, with any possible funding being supplied under a wider national health act.

“The cancer programme we have is currently led by IGMH, but we don’t have the capacity for treatments or screening,” he said.

The State Health Minister claimed that the main challenge for the nation regarding cancer prevention related to a lack of technical expertise.

“Cancer treatment within the country requires state of the art techniques,” he said.

In considering strategies for trying to combat cancer within the Maldives, Bari said that health was one area that the government was looking into the possibilities of private and public partnerships and the potential benefits that may be available.

So-called ‘medical tourism’ to countries such as India and Singapore is very common in the Maldives among those able to afford it, and is major expense for many families unable to afford it but who do so anyway because of low confidence in local services for surgery and serious ailments.