It is no secret that the Maldives has recently been faced with an alarming rise in the number of individuals getting diagnosed with cancer. Just a decade ago, cancer was one of those diseases that we heard about more on the television, and read about in our school books. However, lately it appears that battling with cancer has become a reality for several individuals as well as families.
While the Maldives is a small nation, the statistics of cancer patients as well as the death rate due to cancer is alarmingly high. According to statistics released by the Health Ministry, cancer is the cause for 17 percent of the deaths in Maldives with over 7,500 people being under treatment for cancer between 2016 and 2019.
And let us remember that these statistics includes only those who got diagnosed for cancer and there could be hundreds if not thousands more who are from smaller islands or even the capital city who never caught on to their diagnosis and passed away due to this terminal illness.
Though cancer used to be one of those conditions that was not commonly heard of just around 10 years ago, today it has become one of the biggest realities that families all over the Maldives face. As cancer has become one of the leading causes of deaths in the Maldives, many have also started questioning what exactly has caused the rise in the number of cancer patients in this small island nation.
And the question to this answer would also vary, depending on who you are asking. One of the biggest factors for sure is the change in our lifestyle over the past years. With bad habits such as smoking and drinking being on the rise, though too taboo to the point of Maldivians ever coming to accept these facts, with the increasing number of cancer patients we are faced with the reality that these bad habits might be the root cause of our problems.
While smoking used to be deemed a bad habit that people looked down on, in the past few years, smoking has yet again picked up it’s ‘aesthetic’ value in the eyes of the younger generation. To add on this already increasing issue, vaping has also become a major concern as a majority of the youth have made this habit normal to the point that it is hard to sit in a cafe or in a park without someone blowing smoke in your face.
With such habits on the rise, it is also no surprise that these statistics show that the most common form of cancer that is diagnosed in Maldivian men is lung cancer. But what is also worth noting is that in Maldivian females the most common diagnosis is breast cancer.
While many of us might be aware that lung cancer has become on of the biggest cocerns in todays' Maldivian society, it might be interesting to know that a lot of women face breast cancer diagnosis in the Maldives. And anyone who knows a thing or two about breast cancer might know that early diagnosis and detection plays a crucial role in the patients' treatment. While this is true, this also brings to light the lack of awareness that is spread when it comes to such things.
Though detection for things such as lung cancer could be a bit more difficult, when it comes to breast cancer women can easily carry out daily self-check ups just to be safe. However, with the lack of information and awareness, it is quite evident that self-check ups, early detection and the overall awareness surrounding such topics are close to non-existent in the Maldives.
With many people getting a diagnosis late into their illness, the need to raise awareness has become more important than ever. It has now become evident that the little warning on the back of the cigarette box or the two to three awareness articles we see per year is no longer working. Though everyone is aware that smoking or drinking or other bad lifestyle choices are a root cause of the increasing number of cancer patients in the Maldives, it appears that people are still not facing the reality of how difficult the journey really is.
Cancer, being a terminal illness means it is not only hard on the patient, as this diagnosis often tends to be hard on the entire family as well as friends. Therefore, with the increased numbers, maybe it is time to take this topic more seriously and find a new strategy to create awareness that will make an impact on the Maldivian youth.