Published on: 8 August 2019

One of Bangladesh’s leading malignancies is oral cancer. Bangladesh has one of the highest mortality rates in the world due to oral cancer. Around 16,000 deaths per year are attributable to oral cancer and every year at least 14,000 new cases are detected.

One of the main reasons is the prevalent chewing of Betel quid, a form of tobacco, that is a wide spread tradition, culturally accepted and therefore encouraged in these communities. The Betel quid itself consists of areca nut, betel leaf, catechu, zarda and slaked lime. There are also high rates of smoking cigarettes, bidi, and hookah. Pair these factors with the use of alcohol and general poor nutrition as a result of poor socioeconomic conditions, lack of awareness of the types of health risks that cause oral cancer, illiteracy and lack of infrastructure to tackle oral cancer are all major factors which play into these sky high rates.

Dr Muzzamill Nusrath, Head and Neck CDG Chair, in collaboration with the founding president of Bangladesh Oral Cancer Society, Prof Motiur Rahman, will be travelling to Bangladesh in September through to December to host free oral cancer camps in Khulna District villages. Dr Nasrath and Prof Rahman will go these villages with equipment  to diagnose oral cancer. The camp will also raise awareness of oral cancer, importance of avoiding Betel Quid, smoking cessation, teach the importance good oral hygiene and nutrition all in hopes of preventing cancer. The aim of the camp will also hope to diagnose cases by taking biopsies. If the test comes back positive it will be arranged the patient receives treatment for their cancer in the Government Hospital Cancer Centre. Many of the patients diagnosed are on very low wages but are expected to be the bread winners for
their families. Therefore the diagnosis of advanced oral cancer proves to be devastating to the family, not only is the patient fighting for their life but his family suffers enormously as they are dependent on the wage to survive. Because of this, the workers in the cancer camp aim to provide financial assistance hopefully giving support to the family during this difficult time. The patient will also be given much needed medication for pain control hopefully giving a better quality of life. 

The project hopes to raise awareness not just for the patients in the cancer camps, but also the government. The goal is to stop the sale of these chewable, and highly addictive tobacco products, change culture amongst the villages and provide  important education about cancer.

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