Muscat: A leading doctor in Oman says he is seeing more and more cases of prostate cancer, as data reveals a decrease in stomach cancers in the Sultanate.
Dr Juma Al Lawati, Senior Consultant in gastroenterology and hepatology, believes that the decrease in stomach cancer could be correlated to better access to health facilities in the country but that doesn’t mean Omanis are in the clear.
According to Dr Juma, stomach cancer is not only a result of poor dietary habits but a micro organism called helicobacter pylori infects the stomach which can also contribute. This bacteria may be present in almost 70 per cent of people at 70 years of age and above. Not necessarily all have symptoms.
“Usually when patients present themselves, the cancer is at a much later stage. A high index of suspicion, the symptoms at presentation and early screening test can be vital.” Dr Juma said.
But even as a Gastroenterologist, he has personally seen the change in the leading cancers.
“Since I joined the private sector as a full time gastroenterologist and the chief executive officer of Medical Vision Specialty Center two years ago, I have seen more prostate cancer cases than gastric, hence this is a single private center experience” Dr Juma said.
Twenty years ago in 1997, the Oman National Cancer Registry reported that gastric cancer was the most common type of cancer among Omanis. Out of the 922 cancer cases reported that year, 84 were gastric cancer cases and 48 were for cancer in the prostate.
In 2007, prostate cancer became the number one cancer among Omani men, pushing stomach cancer to the second place. This trend continued into 2013, when the registry saw an age-adjusted incidence rate of 12.2 in prostate verses 7.1 in stomach cancers.
Dr Zahid Al Mandhari, deputy director of the National Oncology Centre, believes that diet doesn’t necessarily play a huge role in the evolution of cancers.
“Stomach cancer is becoming less because of the different changes in diet. Prostate cancer is on the rise because we are living longer. In the 1960s and 70s, people used to eat a lot of dried food, salted fish, lacked refrigeration and fruits and vegetables, which was the reason for stomach cancer.”
“For prostate cancer, the fact is, if you take men above the age of 70, who died for whatever reason (not just cancer) and an autopsy was done, 70 per cent of them will have some sort of prostate cancer. This is a fact, the older we get the higher the probability of developing cancer,” Al Mandhari explained.
He further stated that not all cancers develop into advanced cancer, but “as long as you are a man and you live long enough, you will develop prostate cancer.”
“Men don’t like going to the hospital for a number of reasons. For men with all cancers, we detect them much later. Understanding what the common signs and symptoms of cancer are, and noticing some of the changes in your body, which are not normal, you should go for a check up. Just because you are getting older, it doesn’t mean you can just brush them off,” Al Mandhari said.