The number of cancer cases in Saudi Arabia is estimated at 7,000 annually, a figure that is expected to rise to 30,000 within the next 15 years, the chairman of the Saudi Cancer Society (SCS), Dr. Abdullah al Amr, revealed to Asharq al Awsat.
Al Amr also revealed that the most common forms of cancer afflicting women in Saudi Arabia are breast and thyroid cancers, in addition to lymphoma and liver cancer, while most cancer cases among men were colon cancer. Al Amr indicated that the most challenging cancers to treat are pancreatic and liver cancers, and some types of brain cancer.
Pointing out that the world’s cancer recovery rate is estimated at 60 percent, Dr. al Amr said that the rate is lower in Saudi because a significant number of patients visit hospitals and specialized oncology centers at advanced stages of the disease.
Al Amr disclosed that random interviews conducted with patients showed that 60 percent resort to unconventional medicine and that many of them are seeking treatment using popular herbal medicines. He added that the SCS is supporting a comprehensive survey so as to ascertain the accurate figures involved.
The chairman of the SCS said that the Ministry of Health has been making steady efforts to increase public awareness and is investing in educating the community. He said, however, that it is unlikely that the SCS would resort to legal action against those selling such herbal medicines and added that the aim was to educate the people about the detriments of some herbal medicines that have obscure composition and unproven effectiveness.
The SCS issued a statement at the beginning of this week that cautioned against treatment by harmful popular medicines, affirming that it has become a common phenomenon over the past few years. Al Amr stated that the SCS, in cooperation with specialized laboratories will keep record and undertake analyses of these medicines so as to ensure the safety an efficacy of cancer treatment. He furthermore indicated that the kingdom lacked proven scientific studies on the effect of these substances on cancer patients and that outlets that sold such substances were poorly controlled.
The SCS stressed the harmful effects resultant of using these popular medicines, as some are contaminated by bacteria. Cancer patients characteristically have weakened immune systems and thus the detriments can be quite severe. The SCS stated that the side effects resulting from radiotherapy and medical drugs are worse when simultaneously combined with some herbs, all of which delays recovery.