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Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable, yet it claims the lives of a large number of women in the Caribbean each year. The majority of cancer deaths in Caribbean men are due to prostate cancer, followed by lung cancer. Lung cancer also contributes to a high number of deaths among women. Colon and rectum cancer is the third leading cause of death in the region.
Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control said “Cancer cases in the Region are on the rise and also affecting younger persons. The large number of deaths from breast and cervical cancer in the Caribbean is very alarming, since cervical cancer is largely preventable, and breast cancer can be detected early and treated successfully. Participation in screening programs is strongly encouraged for prevention of cervical cancer and early detection of breast and colon and rectum cancers.”
Tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol are common modifiable risk factors that contribute to the development of cancers. “Research has shown that a reduction in the modifiable risk factors in the population will contribute to a reduction of cancer cases and as a consequence deaths and costs from the disease in our region, stated Dr. St John.
World Cancer Day observances for 2016, as well as 2017 and 2018 will share the same theme: “We can. I can.” “We can”, collectively, inspire action, create healthy environments, build a quality workforce and shape policy change. As an individual “I can” understand that early detection saves lives. I can support others, and work to make healthy lifestyle choices.
CARPHA continues to support member countries as they address the growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases (including cancer) in the population. The Agency provides support and advice to countries in the identification of suitable interventions for impacting behavior change in the population, thereby reducing the risks for cancer.
The Caribbean Cancer Registry Hub will be launched this year at CARPHA’s Annual Research Conference scheduled for June this year, in Turks and Caicos. This Hub will facilitate the strengthening of the surveillance of cancers and provide much needed data to support cancer prevention and control in our Region.
CARPHA encourages persons to adopt healthier lifestyles by avoiding the use of tobacco, reducing the harmful use of alcohol including binge drinking, increasing daily intake of fruits and vegetables and becoming physically active to reduce the high levels of overweight and obesity seen in our countries. Increased use of screening services available for cervical cancer, breast cancer and cancer of the colon is also recommended. In addition, vaccines for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B are important tools to prevent cervical cancer and liver cancer, respectively. For those persons already affected by cancer, countries need to work towards improving patient management and facilitating access to quality medications which will improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
Let us all act now to make the lifestyle changes which will result in reducing our lifetime risk of contracting cancer “We can…I can”!!