One in four people deaths in Malta is from cancer. Statistics provided by the National Cancer Platform show that cancer accounts for 27 per cent of all deaths in the country.
Cancer accounts for 29 per cent of all male deaths and 24 per cent of female deaths.
The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25 to 30 per cent are due to tobacco, as many as 30 to 35 per cent are linked to diet, about 15 to 20 per cent are due to infections, and the remaining percentage due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants, etc.
Prof. Christian Scerri of the Faculty of Medicine & Surgery at the University of Malta, said lifestyle factors that include “cigarette smoking, diet, alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity” increase our predisposition to cancer.
Prof. Scerri and Marika Fleri, coordinator of the National Cancer Platform, said survival rates in Malta compared well with the survival rates in other countries.
The highest five-year survival rate was registered in childhood leukemias – 94 per cent (92 per cent in the UK), followed by prostate cancer, 88 per cent (89 per cent in UK) and breast cancer, 87 per cent.
Prof. Scerri added that 40 per cent of cancers are preventable.
Malta is today joining other countries to mark World Cancer Day which, with the campaign theme of ‘I Am and I Will’, aimsto highlight the need for urgent action to increase early stage cancer detection, screening and diagnosis.
The National Cancer Platform, which brings together “all Maltese non-government organisations working in the field of cancer to collaborate together to ensure a holistic, coordinated and sustainable service for all cancer patients and their loved ones”, yesterday organised an outreach campaign at City Gate, Valletta.
All 16 organisations within the platform – Action for Breast Cancer Foundation, Alive Charity Foundation, Aurora Support Services, Europa Donna Malta, Dr Klown, Hospice Malta, Karl Vella Foundation, Lumiere Support Group, Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation, Malta Health Network, Malta Male Cancer Awareness, Malta Ostomy Association, Malta Colorectal Cancer Awareness Group, Puttinu Cares, Survivors Malta and Smiling with Jerome Foundation NGOs – were present and showcased their work.
The main attraction was a ‘City Workout’ around Valletta’s streets and main squares. Today the NCP is organising a conference titled ‘Courage to change the things I can’ – Living life with cancer.
Ms Fleri explained that spiritual growth and emotional well-being take place when a person takes responsibility for choosing how to live with cancer.
“Growth happens within a relational context when a person connects with self, other and the moment as he/she grapples with the meaning of love and loss, health and ill-health, life and death,” she said.
“The fourth cancer conference organised by the National Cancer Platform will be an experiential journey, within this relational context, as patient, family and professional engage in conversation and allow the experience to unfold.
“Together and each within him and herself, within the experience of our collective humanity, new insights emerge, and are the basis for a strength and serenity that go far beyond the helplessness and desperation that are commonly associated with a cancer diagnosis – allowing the person to make choices with regards to living the cancer experience.”
Ms Fleri said that through the platform members of organisations that offer support to people affected by cancer and their families, become familiar with the work being carried out by other organisations offering similar, or complementary services. The Platform facilitates exchange of information to the benefit of the service users.
It operates from an office at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. This office offers the concept of a ‘one-stop shop’ for all organisations within the Platform.
“When a patient or family member visits our office, we identify the organisation which will best suit the patient’s needs at that particular point in time. We also have an inspirational library in this office called Librerija Balzmet ir-Ruħ and we encourage patients to visit us even for a chat,” Ms Fleri said.
“We are there to listen to what the patient needs and offer help accordingly,” she added.
The NCP also has a freephone number – 8007 2388 – which is manned all day, every day.
What are the signs to look out for
• Breast: lumps, nipple discharge, retracted nipple (breast);
• Prostate and bladder: difficulty in passing urine, blood in urine (prostate or bladder);
• Lungs: persistent cough;
• Colon: change in bowel habit;
• Leukaemia: infections that are severe and not improving.
• Colon: 58% (UK 60%);
• Breast: 87% – well in the upper part (6th) above France, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Italy and UK;
• Lung: 15% (UK 13%);
• Melanoma: 82% (UK 91%)
• Prostate: 88% (UK 89%);
• Childhood leukemias: 94% (UK 92%);
• Adult: 46-62% (depending on type) (UK 49-65%);
• Ovary: 28% (UK 36%).
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