Chat with Dr Susan Gaspstur on Cancer and impact of modifiable risk factors

Dr Susan Gapstur. Courtesy photo.

Cancer continues to ravage humanity across the world even when several interventions have been put in place, and more approaches to control it are being discussed by World health body.

In Uganda, more than 60,000 cases of cancer are recorded per year. Of the number, finding shows 25,000 are incident cases. Also, annually, nearly 22,000 deaths occur due to cancer.

Rise in cancer cases is projected to reach almost 80,000 in coming years. Currently, almost 80 per cent of patients present the disease in advanced stages, giving doctors minimal time to intervene in prolonging their lives.

Susan Gapstur, Ph.D., M.P.H., American Cancer Society, Inc. is a Senior Vice President of Behavioral and Epidemiology Research at the American Cancer Society, spoke to TND News about it.

According to her, evidence is that alcoholic beverage consumption is a cause of at least 7 types of cancer and newer evidence that ethanol in alcoholic beverages causes some of these types of cancer.


Which modifiable risk factors contribute to the highest proportion of cancer cases and deaths? Why the highest priority in a national cancer control plan must continue to focus on tobacco control – the intervention with the largest potential health benefits?

TND News: Cancer continues to ravage humanity and yet a lot of interventions have been made by both local governments and international bodies – like WHO. There is also a shocking number of deaths annually. What new innovations, strategies and approaches are experts coming up with to supplement or substitute old methods? Are populations [victims] sensitized that much on how to avert it?

Dr Gapstur: The number of people diagnosed with cancer throughout the world is expected to increase due to the aging and growth of the population. However, in some parts of the world, there has been progress in the fight against cancer. For example, in the US, cancer mortality rates have been declining for more than 25 years due to improvements in cancer treatment, early detection and prevention (including progress in tobacco control). However, we recognize that many people living in low- or middle-income countries do not have access to the information or interventions that could reduce the risk of developing or dying from cancer. We partner with organizations worldwide to, for example, improve awareness, expand access to proven prevention, early-detection and treatment strategies, and find breakthroughs through research.

With more than 120 types of cancer troubling the world, in Uganda and on the Continent [Africa], Cervical Cancer is one most fatal.

According to recent findings by World health body [WHO], cervical cancer is likely to kill more than 443,000 women yearly worldwide by 2030.

Most of them (these deaths) are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to expert review of anti-infective therapy.

Related: Uganda: How cervical cancer is killing 2,275 women yearly

The reports also reveals that over 78,000 women across Africa die from cervical cancer annually with South Africa alone, loosing over 4,248 each year.

Also, and hugely, 10,403 deaths are recorded in Nigeria, 2,451 in Kenya, 2,275 deaths in Uganda, 1,556 in Ghana, 2,879 in Malawi, 4,884 in Ethiopia, 2,081 in Burkina Faso and 1,367 in Senegal.

Former State Minister for health In-charge General Duties, Sarah Achieng Opendi told TND News in an interview last year that: “It’s true many mothers in Uganda are dying from what’s preventable”.

According to the then Health Minister, those infected or having HIV have higher risk of getting cervical cancer, adding that government is doing enough to reduce the deaths.

Like data have shown, Ms Opendi says most women visit hospital or health centres when they are terribly weakened by the deadly disease.

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