Against the backdrop of the observance of World Cancer Day on Saturday, February 4, consultant Urologist, Dr. Rohan DeShong has highlighted a possible and worrying link between cancers and the long-term use of marijuana.
Dr. Deshong and Dr. Erica Jordan, senior registrar and general surgeon at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), appeared as guests on VC3 RoundTable Talk last Thursday, February 2, to discuss the causes as well as the incidents of cancer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Focusing on the incidents of cancer among the younger population, Dr. DeShong pointed to a change in lifestyles as well as the idea that “more young people smoke than before”.
“…with this new legalization of marijuana, we’ve been told there are no side effects from the use of marijuana, maybe from the non-smoking use of marijuana. But all the young men I have seen in my practice in the last 20 years in this country who have died from kidney cancer or prostate cancer, are chronic abusers of marijuana, all of them smoking for 10 to 20 years, five to 10 joints a day…
“Before I left Jamaica, I heard my now retired professor said he’s going to write a paper on the incidents of cancers in young people who smoke marijuana, and we saw a similar trend there that the young people who died from aggressive cancers were chronic smokers of marijuana.”
Dr. DeShong emphasized that smoking, no matter the substance, increases the risk of developing cancer.
“Young people start marijuana smoking in the teens so when you see them in the 30’s with a kidney cancer [it] has already spread. It’s like we know they’ve been using marijuana. So smoking, including marijuana- because we used to think was just smoking tobacco. Smoking increases the risk of every cancer, breast cancer, colonic cancer, prostate cancer…”
On the topic of prostate cancer, Dr. DeShong scolded men in SVG for shying away from having a prostate examinations based on what he describes as a “intrinsic homophobic response to the rectal examination”.
He added, one of the biggest challenges to cancer detection in SVG is “getting men to get screened”. He went onto say that late screening presents major issues for cancer treatment.
“You get treated late, bad outcome. You get screened and treated early, better outcome.”
Dr. Jordan also spoke to incidents of cancers among the female population in SVG, highlighting how decisions to not have screenings done early have been impacting treatment among cancer victims.
“…it is not the availability of the tests. It is getting individuals to make the conscious effort to go and get your screening done.”
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