Caribbean wages war on cervical cancer

Caribbean wages war on cervical cancer
Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told gynecologic oncologists from around the Caribbean Saturday that they must continue to push for “accessibility and affordability of gynecological cancer services” while fostering “regional partnership for bulk purchase of cancer drugs from major pharmaceutical companies”.

“We cannot continue to ignore that the costs related to this type of healthcare are extremely high,” Dr. Minnis declared.

“We must all continue to advance the accessibility and affordability of gynecological cancer services and foster regional partnership for bulk purchase of cancer drugs from major pharmaceutical companies.”

The remarks came as the prime minister addressed the Caribbean Gynecologic Cancer Society’s (CGCS) third conference held at the Warwick Hotel, Paradise Island, over the weekend.

The group gathered in The Bahamas to discuss how the region can pool its manpower and resources to fight one of the deadliest disease among women in The Bahamas, cervical cancer.

According to statistics, 24.5 per cent of every 100,000 Bahamian women who present themselves for first time screening, test positive for cervical cancer – almost two times more than global statistics which record 15.1 per cent per 100,000.

“The new global agenda in women’s health recognizes that non-communicable diseases (NCD) are the leading causes of death and disability in women in almost all countries globally,” Dr. Minnis said.

“Cancer is now chief among the NCD’s. I applaud the organizers of this conference today as we make this giant step forward in women’s health by inviting regional and international experts to our shores to share their experiences with us.

“The burden of cervical cancer is very high and represents our third leading cause of cancer deaths in women and the fourth leading cause of death in women ages 15 – 44 years old.

“Our greatest challenge in the war against cancer, especially for the gynecological cancers, is making our healthcare services more affordable and accessible.”

Conference participant, Dr. Nina Graham, told Eyewitness News why she values the society’s efforts in the regional fight against cervical cancer.

“This allows the Caribbean to unite under the umbrella of a society to bring to light new treatments available and basically enables us the platform to share ideas which help to take our countries forward in the fight against these diseases,” she said.

“I’m hoping that with something like this, we are able to also begin to find ways to attract and pool resources to fund the regional effort in fighting cancer.

“This disease is the most preventable cancers of the female reproductive tract, but the burden of cervical cancer is very high because a lot of women in The Bahamas do not have regular pap smear screening.”

World health guidelines suggest that women should begin having pap smears at the age of 21.

Dr. Graham revealed that many women neglect the life-saving screening process.

It is estimated that 60 per cent of women who present themselves for first-time screening for cervical cancer are found to be in advanced stages of the deadly disease.

“You can actually prevent cervical cancer by having regular screening. If we find something abnormal, it can be treated before it even develops into cancer,” said Dr. Graham.

“I always tell women, it costs less than $50 to get a pap smear but it costs over $20,000 to get radiation to treat cervix cancer. So which one do you think is better to choose?”

Caribbean Gynecologic Society (CGS) President Dr. Carole Rattray said, the organization wants to make a meaningful change in the lives of Caribbean people.

“We not only hope to have stimulation intellectually, but we are also very happy that as part of our mission and mandate, we can train sufficient gynecologic oncologists through our newly established fellowship programme, to staff all of our territories so that there will be first class service to the populations,” she said.

The two-day conference brought together gynecologic oncologists from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, The Bahamas and international partners from the United States and Canada.