Cancer accounts for one in every four deaths in Malta. According to the latest statistics issued by the national cancer platform, it appears that 27% of deaths in Malta are cancer-linked, 29% of men and 24% of women. Nearly 1,000 persons are diagnosed with cancer every year, and just over half manage to get cured. This statistic indicates that practically every family in Malta has or had someone struck down by this cruel illness. Popolin discussed what leads to an increase in the incidence of cancer, and what steps can be taken for better control.
Consultant Paediatrician in Children’s Oncology Dr Victor Calvagna, a guest on the programme, explained that the cancer problem in Malta is very similar to that of other countries. As Dr Calvagna comes across more child cancer patients because of the nature of his work, he explained that there is a big difference between the impact of cancer on an adult and the same impact on children. “Cancer in children responds better to treatment, in fact between 80 and 85% survive.” Dr Calvagna added that the types of cancer are different. In children, one does not come across lung cancer, bowel cancer, breast cancer or prostate cancer. The most common cancer they come across is leukaemia and bone cancer.
Dr Calvagna explained that the causes of cancer in children are completely different to the causes in adults. Children are not stricken by cancer because they smoke, drink excessively, don’t exercise or follow the wrong diet. “Children either inherit cancer, a very small percentage, or unfortunately because it happens. The risk of children getting cancer is much lower than that of adults, in fact, the risk is one in every five hundred, whereas, in the case of adults up to age 50, the risk is one in ten.” Dr Calvagna explained it is possible that what has been consumed by the parents before pregnancy leaves its effect on the children, however, there is no evidence to indicate with certainty that certain behaviour causes cancer.
Asked by the presenter about the most vulnerable age for cancer, Dr Calvagna said it is the first five years in a child’s life, as children develop at a fast rate during this period, and there is a possibility of a mutation which results in cancer. In conclusion, Dr Cavagna added that in his view, alternative medicine does not work.