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Expanding and Sustaining Cancer Treatment for all of Papua New Guinea

Cancer is on the increase in Papua New Guinea. This is being fuelled by risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and chewing of betel nut.
The Government has a road map to address this escalation of cancer cases, and the Department of Health requires a large amount of resources to implement the road map.
There are many types of cancers, and there are many treatment options. And people even with the same cancer, don’t always need the same treatment.

Treatment of cancer is not solely by radiotherapy. There are many recent and more effective treatments now available and the department of health has started using these multiple options.
Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and anti-cancer drugs are treatments already available at Port Moresby General Hospital and Angau Memorial Hospital.
The current cobalt radiotherapy treatment at Lae Cancer Treatment Centre is very old technology that modern cancer specialists would not recommend as the only treatment option. The department of health is expanding the treatment options to this centre so that patients have options for their treatment, not just one answer that doesn’t fit every patient’s needs.
Currently the NDOH is recruiting two new specialist oncologists for the Lae Cancer Unit. One for radiation treatment, and another to work with other treatment options for cancer, such as advanced chemotherapy, surgery, and a new radiotherapy treatment called Linear Accelerator that will modernise the radiation treatment for cancer. This will provide better quality of life for cancer patients.
We have a new Brachytherapy service underway, and a volunteer specialist from Australia will be training our young specialists in new cancer treatments that will help particularly, women with cervical cancer.
The National Plan for Cancer estimates we need a minimum of K15 million per year to provide an adequate service to PNG. The current available budget is only K2.1 million, of which more than two-thirds has been paid to Dr John Niblett in salary and entitlements. Over the 9 years Dr Niblett has been paid this large sum of money annually, he has not trained or professionally developed any new Papua New Guinean radiation oncologists to serve the people of Lae or PNG. It is not in the best interest of our country to pay huge salaries to expatriates who provide no training for our own specialists, holding back the potential for increased specialist care of cancer patients right across PNG.
The department of health and the government will continue to give cancer treatment a high priority. However we need to use the available budget for education in prevention, modern medical equipment, drug supplies, and training for local specialist doctors/oncologists. This is how all cancer patients can be sure of ongoing treatment and support for them and their families for years to come.
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