Singaporean oncologist lauds Sri Lanka’s cancer treatment

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  Country is “highly-advanced” in comparison to region A top paediatric oncologist from Singapore noted cancer treatment in Sri Lanka to be highly advanced compared to other parts of the South Asian region. Parkway Cancer Center (PCC) Paediatric Haematologist-Oncologist Dr. Le Le Aung who visited the country this month to establish a ‘co-care’ treatment model between Sri Lanka and Singapore, expressed she was highly impressed with what she had witnessed at the Maharagama National Cancer Institute paediatric unit. “When I compare Sri Lanka with other regional countries, I can say it is much advanced in terms of the cancer centre, the doctors, and the supportive care extended by nurses. I also observed that the necessary technology for treating common cancers is available here,” Dr. Aung told journalists during a press-meet in Colombo. Although she commended the Government for extending free medical treatment to the nation, Dr. Aung opined this generosity is a challenge for the doctors handling paediatric cancers. “Providing care for free certainly brings a lot of benefit to the sick population. However, this leads to queuing of patients and it becomes difficult for the specialist to extend care based on the seriousness of the cancer,” she said. Dr. Aung added that it is important for some patients to have certain procedures sooner than later to stop the cancer progressing to a severe stage. With Sri Lanka having a large ‘sick’ population and only four paediatric oncologists, Dr. Aung stressed the need for more specialists in the field. “One of the limitations I see in Sri Lanka is the lack of manpower for paediatric cancer treatments. Having just four for the entire country is not at all enough. More has to be done to encourage doctors to step into this field. A general paediatrician will be good for initial screening but when the cancer needs to be studied in detail, they cannot be of much help. In that sense my opinion is that the country certainly could do with more paediatric oncologists,” she noted. Dr. Aung shared that in paediatric oncology certain diseases which are labelled high risk require advanced care. Stating leukaemia as one such disease, she emphasised its treatment, which involves bone marrow transplant, calls for advanced medical, nursing, and family care. While Sri Lanka is yet to introduce the bone marrow transplant procedure, Dr. Aung pointed out that the country could use the help of Singapore’s PCC to bridge this gap. “I met with Dr. Damayanthi Pieris (Maharagama National Cancer Institute Consultant Clinical Oncologist) and we are working on a model where we can share patients to offer better treatment for diseases such as leukaemia. What we have worked out so far is that after diagnosis, the patient will be referred to the Parkway Cancer Center where the core treatment will be offered. Once this is completed the patient will be referred back to Dr. Pieris with the treatment plan for follow-up care,” she shared. When questioned the occurrence of cancer in children, she said that two out of every 1,000 will be affected. Although the chances of fully curing the disease are rather slim, she said 80% of children can be treated.