The Solomon Islands has reportedly regained its Covid free status and one must give credit to all concerned for this achievement, the SIG, the MHMS, the front line workers and to donors and international agencies that have given financial support, equipment, including PPE and helped with building or facilitating existing buildings into ICU’s, Isolation Wards and quarantine stations.
In neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea and now Fiji, the Covid crisis is still ongoing and one spares a thought for the medical services engaged in combatting the deadly virus with the roll out of vaccines and control measures such as lock-downs being enforced.
Fortunately there have been no deaths attributed to coronavirus in the Solomon Islands unlike the numbers of people that die from Non-communicable diseases year on year, including those that succumb to heart disease, stroke, liver disease, diabetes and cancer.
In my letter to today, I would like to mention cancer and especially breast cancer because it is my understanding that breast cancer is considered to be the most commonly identified cancer among women, with cervical cancer also as challenging.
I believe the NRH hospital now has its own cancer unit unlike a few years ago when it did not.
In 2017 I read that a systems audit had revealed there was then some claimed delayed diagnosis or lack of cancer treatment, including lack of patient knowledge regarding symptoms, late referrals to the NRH and a lack of diagnostic capabilities, plus a lack of access to any health care, due to geographical barriers and the overall national economic fragility.
I very much hope today all that was mentioned about cancer care four years ago has seen incremental improvements, including the availability of the vital drugs to administer to breast cancer sufferers.
According to the UK’s Daily Mail a new drug has become available in the UK that can hold the disease at bay for twice as long as previous treatments.
I will share with you the story, quote.
Women with incurable breast cancer have been thrown fresh hope thanks to a ‘mind-blowing’ new drug that holds the disease at bay for more than twice as long as previous treatments.
The medication can halt progression for two years, compared to just nine months with previous options, according to the latest trial results.
The drug, Enhertu, approved by National Health Service chiefs last week, is given every three weeks in hospital via an intravenous drip, and combines two potent compounds: an antibody that helps the immune system find cancer cells and a fighter molecule, which enters the cancer cells and destroy them.
This two-pronged attack leads to dramatic tumour shrinkage in two-thirds of patients given it, compared to just a third having standard treatment, according to the latest trial results.
‘This drug is displaying mind-blowing activity in patients for whom the outcome is usually pretty poor,’ says Peter Schmid, professor of cancer medicine at the Barts Cancer Centre and one of the researchers of the drug.
‘It is succeeding where all other treatments seem to fail, because over time, cancer cells adapt to hide from the drugs. Not only does this one work, it continues to work for a long time.’
About 55,000 Britons are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, mostly women aged over 50. Treatments mean the outlook for most patients is positive, with more than three-quarters of women surviving at least ten years after diagnosis.
They will now be offered Enhertu, which can continue to shrink tumours for an average of 16 months.
In studies, some tumours kept reducing in size for two years during treatment.
Side effects occur at a similar rate to existing treatments, with roughly a third of the test patients experiencing complications such as lung infections. Experts say the most common side effects, such as nausea, fatigue and vomiting, are far less severe than seen with chemotherapy.
Enhertu is said to have a unique ability to draw the active compounds directly into the nucleus of the cancer cell, which contains its DNA, to destroy it This also minimises the impact of the drug on surrounding, healthy cells, reducing the severity of side effects.
One patient said, “Although it was difficult to start with, I missed out on the horrible chemo symptoms which are far worse. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity, and it’s great that now thousands more will too.”
End of quote.
Could Enhertu be acquired for administration to breast cancer sufferers in the Solomon Islands? I do hope so.