[WATCH] With 900 deaths annually, new national cancer plan unveiled

Five year plan aims to make Malta a worldwide leader in cancer prevention and treatment, with all cancer medicines to eventually be provided free by the government

Health Minister Chris Fearne launched new national cancer plan (photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Health Minister Chris Fearne launched new national cancer plan (photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
New national cancer plan launched, as 900 deaths reported annually

Cancer risk is increasing as Malta ages, Health Minister Chris Fearne said as he unveiled a five-year national plan to fight the disease. 

Fearne said that Malta has almost 2,000 new cases of cancer a year, and around 900 annual deaths. The biggest cause was an increasing life expectancy – age is the biggest risk factor.

“In the past, many of our ancestors died of infectious diseases. Thanks to advances in medicine, such as vaccines, infectious diseases are  now less common. Today what we have are diseases of old age – chronic diseases, such as cancer," Fearne said.

The new national cancer plan for Malta, for the period 2017-2021, was launched by the minister today.

One in three people suffer from cancer, with this rising to one in two in those over 65.

In light of this, Fearne said, it was important to have a coordinated effort to fight cancer, which is why the strategic and comprehensive plan was drawn up.

The main aims of the plan are to reduce the incidence of cancer, improve the survival rates and bring Malta to the top quartile of European countries in this regard, and to improve the experience and quality of life of patients.

One of the goals of the plan is to promote the reduction in the risk of cancer, Fearne said. Smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and lack of exercise are the main factors which can be changed in order to reduce cancer risk, he explained.

Fearne said the government will over the next five years start spending more money and effort on prevention. “We have thus created three screening programmes, for breast, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer,” Fearne said. “We have already saved hundreds of lives by detecting cancer early through these programmes”.

When it came to treatment, a good team of cancer specialists have been put into place, Fearne said, with people now being treated by a specialist team rather than by one person.

“Government this year introduced free cancer treatment for cervical, bladder, and prostate cancer, and for leukemia,” the minister said. “We will this week be introducing free medicines for three more types of cancer – advanced breast cancer, kidney cancer and melanoma. The government is investing €4.5 million in these three new medicines alone”.

“The plan will make cancer treatment in Malta amongst the very best in the world," Fearne added. A national cancer research foundation is being planned. This will be a collaboration between the government, the main and new universities in Malta, and foreign medical institutes. 

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