Cancer is currently one of the most prevalent public health challenges for this country, second only to cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of illness and death.
In disclosing this on Saturday, Minister of Health and Wellness, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, stressed Government’s commitment to offering a variety of preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic services for persons at risk and those who have been diagnosed.
Delivering the feature address at the annual conference of Cancer Support Services, he identified the main cancers of concern in the island as prostate, colon, breast and cervix.
In the paediatric and young adult age groupings, the more common malignancies were leukaemia, lymphoma, bone, brain and kidney tumours, the Health and Wellness Minister revealed, adding that there were on average eight to 10 childhood cancers per year, a rate that has remained stable over the last five years.
Lt. Col. Bostic stated that the Ministry was committed to the continued investment of an enhanced surveillance system in order to accurately identify and capture old and new cases of cancers in Barbados.
He noted that Barbados was the only English-speaking Caribbean country with a chronic disease registry capable of monitoring acute myocardial infarctions, stroke and cancers.
The World Health Organisation had acknowledged the registry, he revealed, as an example of best practice because of its reliable and accurate data sources, which assisted in priority seeking as well as monitoring of prevention and control methods.
Stressing the importance of prevention, Lt. Col. Bostic said: “The Ministry of Health and Wellness is actively engaged in formulating effective cancer control and prevention measures as it seeks to improve the wellbeing of all Barbadians, by placing greater emphasis on prevention.”
However, he noted that the Ministry could not do it alone, and therefore would work with both the private sector and civil society in implementing a system that was geared towards achieving this objective.
He further submitted: “In an effort to scale up a comprehensive approach on cancer, we must not forget the need for enhancing the lives of persons facing the pain, symptoms and stressors of this dreaded chronic disease.”
In this regard, he said, the need for the provision of holistic quality care and services, such as palliative care interventions, was imperative.
The Health and Wellness Minister commended Cancer Support Services for the valuable role it played within Barbados in providing “much needed support services”, noting that the organisation could be heralded as a refuge for cancer survivors, given its advocacy, compassion, education and, most importantly, confidentiality.