(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Executive Director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, Yulit Gordon, has challenged insurance companies to introduce more affordable critical illness plans so that more persons can have access and be adequately prepared for critical illnesses.
She said that contributing to the fear factor in dealing with illnesses like cancer is that persons face difficulties in acquiring health insurance and are not equipped financially to deal with the diagnosis.
The Executive Director was speaking at the launch of the book “Through the Valley” by 10-year cancer survivor, Michelle Ashwood-Stewart, held at the Undercroft of the Senate Building at The University of the West Indies, Mona on Thursday.
In the book, Ashwood-Stewart recounts her journey through a diagnosis of breast cancer and outlines some of the questions, the struggles, and the triumphs she experienced along the way.
Gordon observed that one in 21 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer which is the leading cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women.
She pointed out that a recent survey conducted by The University of the West Indies, Mona in collaboration with the Jamaica Cancer Society to determine the nation’s screening profile, revealed that the median age of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Jamaica is that of 52 years of age, which is eight years younger than the global average of 60 years.
She indicated that approximately 60 per cent of the breast cancer cases diagnosed in Jamaica are among women between the ages of 25 and 59 years, which tends to mean that it is a more aggressive form of breast cancer.
Gordon noted that the many steps and modalities required for adequate treatment make breast cancer very costly to manage so that early detection significantly improves outcomes and survival for Jamaican women at risk for the disease.
Noting that the Jamaica Cancer Society provides over 10,000 mammograms each year, she argued that “sustained public education on the importance of monthly breast self-examinations, clinical examinations and annual mammograms are key strategies to detecting breast cancer in its early stages.”
Gordon advised that globally, significant progress has been made in cancer research to identify risk factors that promote the development of cancer. There are new and improved treatment options with more new drugs being placed in clinical trials. However, despite the significant progress made, cancer remains a major health challenge.
She argued that in Jamaica, greater emphasis needs to be placed on survivorship and quality of life. She pointed to the need to establish more support groups for those faced with cancer so that they can access the help they need as they fight the disease.
Gordon applauded the efforts of the Government in completing two new cancer treatment centres of excellence which are offering state of the art radiation therapy to all cancer patients in Jamaica. She also mentioned that later this year, persons will be able to access mammography screening at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
The launch of the National Cancer Registry will also facilitate publication of population data on cancer which will serve to guide national efforts to fight the disease and to promote more research activities, she said.
Gordon concluded that cancer needs not be a death sentence, however, individuals have a responsibility to play a part in safeguarding their own health and well-being as well as those of loved ones.