Cancer of the stomach, cervix, head and neck are most common in Bhutan
More than 20 people who are living with cancer, those who survived cancer and family members of the affected came together yesterday to light butter lamps at the memorial chorten in Thimphu.
It was world cancer day.
Phub Zam, 60, from Wangduephodrang was one of those who lit a butter lamp. She has been battling cervical cancer for the past four years.
“Doctors say I am one of the few survivors who have been suffering from the disease this long,” she said. “It is very important for such events to take place so that people are aware about it.”
Standing next to her was Phuntsho Choden, 28, a private employee, who lost her mother and grandmother to cancer. “When somebody is fighting against cancer, I realise that it is not only important to give technical support but also to give emotional support,” she said.
Chheki Wangchuk, 47, whose son is battling leukaemia for eight years now agreed that for such patients, emotional support is very important. “My son is leading a normal life right now,” he said. “But for people who are coming from remote parts of the country, it is important for them to receive not only financial but spiritual support as well.”
Cancer affects not only individuals but also the entire family, he added.
The day was themed, “Cancer- did you know?”
Lives of many families in the country have been affected by cancer with more than 2,000 people admitted at the referral hospital in 2011, records maintained by the health ministry show.
Gynecologist Dr Ugyen Tshomo said the most common cancers diagnosed in Bhutan are stomach, cervical, head and neck cancers.
“Today many patients are diagnosed due to better diagnostics services such as MRI and CT scan and awareness programs leading to early detections,” she said.
However, realising that prevention and control of cancer was also important, a need for a non-governmental organisation was felt necessary to complement the efforts of the government, she said.
“With an objective to save many lives and support cancer patients, Bhutan Cancer Society has been initiated by few members,” she said.
One of the founders, Lily Wangchuk, a cancer survivor, said cancer is a silent killer. “Many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and with the right strategies, most can be prevented,” she said.
Other than demystifying cancer and giving support, Bhutan Cancer Society will also provide social support for poor people from rural Bhutan who come to Thimphu for cancer treatment and remain in the capital for several months, Dechen Wangmo, one of the founders, who also lost family members to cancer, said.
According to the annual health bulletin, 2012, between 2007 and 2011, around 29 people died of cervical cancer alone and around 329 have died of other cancers. At the same time, around 412 cases of cervical cancer was diagnosed and 2,971 of other cancers.
By Thinley Zangmo