Wed | May 12, 2021

Let’s beat cancer!

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2021 | 12:06 AM

More than one-third of cancer cases can be prevented. Another third can be cured if detected early and treated properly. By implementing resource-appropriate strategies on prevention, early detection and treatment, up to 3.7 million lives can be...

More than one-third of cancer cases can be prevented. Another third can be cured if detected early and treated properly. By implementing resource-appropriate strategies on prevention, early detection and treatment, up to 3.7 million lives can be saved every year.

Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump, called a tumour; this is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood).

If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems, or release hormones that may affect body function.

Cancers can be caused by a number of different factors and, as with many other illnesses, most cancers are the result of exposure to a number of different causal factors.

It is important to remember that, while some factors cannot be modified, around one-third of cancer cases can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks.

Today, we know more about cancer than ever before. Through investing in research and innovation, we have witnessed extraordinary breakthroughs in medicine, diagnostics, and scientific knowledge.

The more we know, the more progress we can make in reducing risk factors, increasing prevention and improving cancer diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and care. In recent years, the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies have recognised the urgent need for a global commitment.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness, through its Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Injury Prevention Unit, has planned a series of public education activities and virtual events under the global theme, ‘Together, All Our Actions Matter – I Am and I Will’. These scheduled activities will see intense focus on cancer awareness, prevention and control, and create opportunities to sound a clarion cry for screening.

Screening is the best way to identify cancer in its earliest stages, often before it causes any symptoms. Without screening, the ability for doctors to detect and therefore successfully treat cancer is greatly diminished. For this reason, screening outreach will form a central part of this year’s commemoration of World Cancer Day, tomorrow.

The ministry has partnered with The Woman’s Place, Apex Radiology, Radiology West and the Jamaica Cancer Society to be able to have islandwide screening offered at discounted rates. In the case of the Jamaica Cancer Society, it will be providing a total of 60 free screening places (mammogram and Pap smears) to persons referred by the public health centres.

Though screenings are a vital aspect of comprehensive healthcare, many people either delay or avoid getting screened for cancer for two main reasons – the cost, a major factor, and the fear of hearing the worst.

“In response to the fear factor as a cause for delaying screening, we are widening our channels of communication in order to have conversations with persons to provide more information and try to allay their fears,” stated Dr Nicola Skyers, acting director, Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit, at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Facing fears of potential cancers is difficult, but it’s important to do. It’s the best way to take care of your body and yourself. If you don’t have cancer, the news will be encouraging. If you do, learning about your cancer may be disheartening, but it’s the first step to treating and overcoming the cancer,” Skyers said.

Sanchez Palmer, medical physicist with the ministry, also highlighted that “each type of cancer has its own screening tests. Some types of cancer currently do not have an effective screening method. Developing new cancer screening tests is an area of active research”.

It is important to talk with your doctor about your personal risk of developing cancer. Together you can decide on an appropriate screening schedule based on your age and personal and family medical history.


• Some 10 million people die from cancer every year.

• At least one third of common cancers are preventable.

• Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide.

• Seventy per cent of cancer deaths occur in low- to middle-income countries.

• Up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource-appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment.

• The total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at US$1.16 trillion.

Source: World Health Organization; World Cancer Day; Ministry of Health and Wellness; Jamaica Cancer Society