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Cancer Kills 200+ in Belize for 2016

For the year 2016 there have been more than two hundred deaths in Belize due to cancer.  According to the Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero, cancer is second to heart disease when it comes to the leading causes of deaths in Belize.


“We reviewed some of the data leading up to world cancer day. Over all cancer is the second leading cause of death in 2016 only heart disease had more deaths. In men prostatic cancer and cancer of the lungs, in the women breast cancer is starting to become and issue and cancer of the gastro intestinal track so there are situations that need to be looked at, prevention is key I think that is an element that we cannot forget ,we can’t just be concentrated on the medical component of cancer particularly if you know that 1/3 of cancers can be avoided if you have a healthy lifestyle and also early detection in terms of cervical cancer and in terms of perhaps even breast cancer and prostatic cancer those are cancers that take a long time to develop from the initial stage to full blown cancer those are elements that need to be looked at but it is a concern because it is the second leading cause of death for Belizeans in 2016.”

In response to the alarming rates of the various forms of cancer, Dr Manzanero says the Ministry of Health is looking to complete a feasibility study shortly while an in-house oncologist will be installed later this year.


“So we are completing or about to complete a feasibility study to look at how cancer care is to be developed in Belize. In the first instance we are going to be looking at medical care because you know oncological care has many different facets there is radiation, surgery and medical we are primarily looking at that as an entry point in terms of cancer care for Belize. Hopefully that feasibility study will also tell us where specifically we need to develop our plan and cost because that is also something that needs to be factored in. Parallel to that we are including oncological medications in our drug formulary that had not been done before and we are hoping to start the procurement of oncological medications starting this tender process cycle. I believe Karl Heusner is going to be having its Medical Oncologist on board coming back from studies later on this year so work is happening, it’s not as fast as perhaps we would want but it is happening.”

As it relates to the availability of treatments including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and medication, Dr Manzanero says that practical options are being looked at by the authorities.


“Cancer care might be expensive if you have a standalone site, if you are doing radiation therapy for example. I know that’s been a debate but if you don’t have the amount of patients that other countries have in the long run it might be something you want to consider but in the shorter term it might be cheaper if you send somebody for radiation outside rather than have a center that you have to sustain and maintain so that is part of the final report that I believe will come back to us any time now.”

The feasibility study on cancer and its treatments is being done following a recent working visit by a Belize delegation to Vienna, Austria in early December 2016.  As we noted earlier this week there was another delegation recently in Austria in commemoration of World Cancer Day 2017.  Leading that delegation was the Special Envoy for Women and Children in Belize, Kim-Simplis Barrow.