Rotary fights cancer through prevention and early detection in partnership with NCCP


The aim of World Cancer Day observed in February around the world, is to help save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer, and calling on Governments to take action against the disease. Today more people die from cancer than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

In Sri Lanka , where cancer ranks amongst the leading three Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), and is on the rise, with over 15,000-20,000 new cases diagnosed every year, there is an urgent need to arrest this serious problem. Recognizing the tremendous value of screening and early detection which could significantly bring down the deaths by cancer , the Rotary Club of Colombo, over 15 years ago, joined hands with the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) of the Ministry of Health and launched the Cancer Prevention and Early Detection project .The project completed 15 years in 2019.

According to studies, 30-40% of cancers can be prevented, and another one third cured with screening, early detection and timely follow up treatment. The project has therefore focused entirely on prevention , and early detection of cancer, particularly the curable ones such as breast, cervical and oral cancer with the goal of saving lives otherwise lost to cancer.

The National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Centre in Colombo , located at 516 Elvitigala Mawatha Narahepita, is open from 8.30 am to 4pm. This is the only national facility, dedicated to screening, early detection and prevention of cancer, offering its services entirely free of charge. The present Narahenpita Centre is a landmark in the area and easily accessible by public transport. The Centre is supported by leading telecommunications provider Dialog Axiata PLC, the Corporate partner in this project.

Through the  generosity  of major donor Rotary Club of Birmingham Alabama USA, as well as other local and overseas donors, and funding through a Global Grant from Rotary International with partner clubs Rotary Club of Birmingham Alabama, Nuremberg- Sigena in Germany and Zurich-Shital in Switzerland, the Centre now offers screening and early detection primarily for breast cancer, cervical and oral cancer as well as counselling, education and awareness programmes for prevention. These are carried out by a team of doctors and nurses from NCCP. The focus is on breast cancer through mammography screening, this having the highest incidence of all cancers. Screening for cervical cancer, which has the second highest of cancers in females, is carried out through HPV/DNA testing and Colposcopy screening. Oral cancer , the highest incidence in males is screened through a fully equipped dental unit. A Health Education Unit handles the prevention activities such as social awareness programmes and education. A mobile screening and social awareness programmme is also carried out throughout the country to reach outlying remote areas. The project has also reached out to the regions to make screening and early detection available to those communities, with the setting up of a breast cancer screening unit at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital in 2016. Todate the project has screened almost 80,000 individuals with over 18000 showing symptoms requiring further investigation.

The Club is embarking on a a further historic milestone in the fight against cancer, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, for the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem by 2030. This ambitious and far reaching initiative which will make Sri Lanka free of cervical cancer, is planned to reach out to all parts off the island and screen women in the 35 and 45 year age group through HPV/DNA testing with equipment donated by The Rotary Foundation global grant and supported with public awareness and assisting in training of healthcare personnel , whilst reaching out to remote areas through two mobile screening buses.

Rotary Club of Colombo

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