The Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) has taken the first step in being able to offer Chemotherapy for cancer patients, by staffing its own Oncologist (cancer specialist).

Ramon Yacab, a Belizean doctor from Benque Viejo del Carmen, who completed medical school in Guatemala and specialized in Oncology in Mexico, officially began his work at the KHMH on March 1. Yacab explained that the goal is to eventually roll out Chemo to the KHMH using a phased approach.
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During the initial phase, he will be holding clinics at the hospital from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on weekdays, and making referrals to the Dangriga Cancer Center while the hospital gathers the necessary equipment and human resources to eventually get the unit up and running. He noted that for the unit to be fully operational there also needs to be a surgical and radio therapy component.

Yacab noted that increasing the hospital’s capacity to include cancer treatment will have several benefits for the country, including data collection which can help inform on the state of cancer in Belize, and the needs of cancer patients. He added that he decided to return to Belize, after specializing, as a way to improve the public health system and to give back to his country.

“I know that the Dangriga Cancer Center is doing a remarkable job, but I believe that the public health system should be offering cancer care. I believe that KHMH is the place to be for cancer care. As the national referral hospital we have to offer cancer care here,” Yacab said.

Chemotherapy is a treatment option for cancer that uses chemicals to kill the cancer cells. Unlike surgery or radiation therapy, which targets specific areas of the body, Chemotherapy can work for the entire boy. However, like all other treatment options, chemo comes with side effects that can put a strain on the body. It is one of the most widely used methods to treat cancer; however the Dangriga Cancer Center is the only facility in the country that offers the treatment.

In Belize, there is no existing database on how many cancer patients are in the country or which type of cancers are prevalent. The only means of cancer data available is the mortality data gathered by the Ministry of Health after a patient has died. The MOH’s last cancer mortality report, released earlier this month in time for World Cancer Day, showed that over 1,440 Belizeans have died from various types of cancer within the past ten years.

The Reporter