by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Tues. Oct. 31, 2023
Cancer, the notorious ailment that has affected populations globally, remains a significant concern in Belize, as revealed by the latest data from the Belize Health Information System. The infographic provides a comprehensive view of the disease’s reach by outlining the distribution of cancer diagnoses in the country for the year 2022.
In 2022, there were 423 new cancer diagnoses in Belize. “I can imagine that this number will continue to rise if the framework of a cancer continuum of care is not in place to suppress these numbers,” commented medical expert, Dr. Nicole Betson.
According to Betson, there are 6 pillars that form the continuum of care to which she referred. These include prevention, screening, early detection and diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation. Notably, two out of every three new cancer diagnoses were among females. The increasing number of cases of cervical and breast cancer are one of the reasons for this trend.
With 57 new diagnoses, cervical cancer is a significant concern. This highlights the importance of routine Pap smear tests, awareness campaigns, and HPV vaccinations to combat this preventable cancer.
Breast cancer is a close second, with 53 cases—underscoring the need for regular mammogram screenings and early detection campaigns.
Forty-five new cases of Leukemia were identified in the year 2022.
“It must be embedded in our forethought that cancer mitigation is only successful when there is a cross-talk between cancer research and the cancer continuum of care. Cancer research saves lives and transforms the whole framework of cancer care. Cancer research is the nucleus of the cancer continuum of care that we so desperately need,” emphasized Betson.
The infographic also provided statistics on cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths per district in Belize for the year 2022.
In the Corozal District, there were a total of 50 individuals diagnosed with cancer and 25 cancer deaths; Orange Walk saw a total of 59 cancer diagnoses and 43 cancer deaths; the Belize District registered the most cancer diagnoses—with 126 individuals discovering they had cancer; along with the highest number of deaths, of 70 individuals.
The Cayo District followed closely behind, recording 124 cancer diagnoses and 62 deaths; while both the districts of Stann Creek and Toledo registered 32 cancer diagnoses. However, while there were 27 cancer-related deaths in Stann Creek, Toledo had the least number of deaths due to cancer, with 19 cancer patients in that district passing away.
Additionally, the age distribution graph shows that the over-60 years age group was the hardest hit, with 168 cases; while there were 145 cases in the 40-59 age group; and 92 cases among those between the ages of 20 and 39. Among those under 20 years, there were only 18 cases, though even one case in this demographic is a cause for concern.
“It is very alarming and concerning that cancer is very prevalent among our younger demographic. Comparatively, approximately 40% of these ‘newly diagnosed’ cases die. This is not an excellent indicator for survivorship if diagnosed with cancer in Belize,” stated Betson.
With 250 individuals succumbing to cancer in 2022, the disease solidifies its rank as Belize’s second-leading cause of death.
Betson stated, “It is unclear why the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality rates are rising. There needs to be cancer research to understand the etiology of cancer in Belize. The deductions of this shall highlight the necessary mitigations on overcoming these implementation barriers and better intervention strategies to directly target underlying causes that are the ‘central driver’ for cancer.”