Papua New Guinea Receives First IAEA imPACT Mission

Dr. John Niblett, radiation oncologist, speaks about the Radiotherapy Centre at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where he had worked from 1973 to 1987. He returned from retirement twelve years later to operate a recently acquired Cobalt-60 treatment unit, which provided radiotherapy for the country for the first time since 1998. (Photo: Dr. Y. Anacak)

In 2012, a few months after becoming an IAEA Member State, Papua New Guinea requested an IAEA imPACT mission to assess the country's cancer control capacity and needs.

The Secretary of Health, Dr. Pascoe Kase, sought the IAEA's expert support to further the Government's efforts to battle the rising incidence of cancer and to address the difficulties that the country faces in dealing with this disease.

The imPACT mission was jointly conducted by the IAEA, the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) from 11 to 15 November 2013.

The team of six experts undertook a comprehensive assessment of the country's cancer control planning, cancer information collection, as well as measures to prevent and ensure early detection, provide diagnosis, treatment and palliative care, in addition to evaluating the country's training capabilities and the role of civil society.

The team also reviewed the existing regulatory requirements and national radiation safety infrastructure on the basis of the IAEA safety standards and guidance.

During the mission the experts visited public facilities, such as the Port Moresby General Hospital and the Radiotherapy Centre at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, as well as private hospitals, health centres and cancer societies.

"Papua New Guinea has taken many steps to address cancer control. Efforts to prevent and control oral cancer, due to betel nut chewing, and early detection and treatment of cervical cancer need to be expanded and sustained," said Dr. Cherian Varghese, the Senior Medical Officer for Noncommunicable Disease Control in WPRO.

Radiotherapy is available in Lae, but is dependent on one expatriate radiation oncologist, Dr. John Niblett, a radiation oncologist from Australia, who worked at the Radiotherapy Centre at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, Papua New Guinea, from 1973 until his retirement in 1987. He then returned from retirement twelve years later to operate a recently acquired Cobalt-60 treatment unit, which provided radiotherapy for the country for the first time since 1998.

Papua New Guinea is seeking to address the shortage of qualified human resources and to improve the facility in order to treat more cancer patients in need of radiotherapy.

Last update: 10 September 2014