CHARLESTOWN Nevis — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health on the occasion of World Cancer Day and International Childhood Cancer Day.
Feb. 4 is recognised globally as World Cancer Day and today Feb. 15, we also join the international community in commemorating International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD).
These two days seek to promote increased awareness of cancer and its global health, social and economic impact on individual, families and countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year, approximately 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer, and 9.6 million people worldwide (both adult and children) would have died from some form of cancer in 2018; the most common causes of death being lung, stomach, breast, prostate, liver and colon cancer in adults and leukaemia, lymphoma, brain and spinal tumours in children.
This year the ICCD campaign focuses on “No More Pain” and “No More Loss” for children with cancer and their families.
The target goal of the WHO Global Childhood Cancer Initiative is to eliminate all pain and suffering of children fighting cancer and achieve at least 60 percent survival for all children diagnosed with cancer around the world by 2030.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, Cancer remains a top priority, as it is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in our adult population, with an average number of 70 new cases annually, about 20 cases in Nevis.
The Ministry of Health continues its commitment to raise awareness and to educate the public on the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.
We continue to highlight the risk factors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking and alcohol consumption, which are also associated with the other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
It must be noted that one of the targets for the achievement of the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 and the Sustainable Development Goal is to reduce premature mortality from cancer.
We are therefore reminded that “early detection saves lives.” Most cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early, hence screening plays a vital role in our secondary prevention strategy.
We continue to partner with Urology Associates and Dr. Spencer Amory in providing screening in our adult population for prostate and colon cancer respectively.
Pap smears for cervical cancer are offered free of cost at all of our Community Health Centres. Our children continue to be screened and monitored at the infant and toddlers clinics and school health programmes.
Recent outreach activities for the month of January 2019, saw a record number of 670 men screened for prostate cancer, 134 women for cervical cancer and 42 persons for colon cancer.
We seek to highlight the importance of diagnosing cancer early and improving access to treatment for both children and adults with cancer.
We take this opportunity to recognise the efforts of other non-governmental partners such as Pink Lily Cancer Care and FIT Wellness Centre who continue to raise the awareness and provide educational, emotional, and physical wellness support for children, adults, cancer survivors and their families within our communities.
This year also marks the launch of The World Cancer Day, a new three-year “I am and I will” Campaign. This theme signifies a personal commitment and an individual call to action which empowers all of us to live healthier and more productive lives.
The global burden of cancer can only be significantly reduced through an individual and collective commitment to modify or avoid key risk factors.
Our children are our future and we must commit to provide the necessary resources to meet the basic needs of those living with or without cancer.
I must emphasise that individuals must take personal responsibility for their health. “Be the change.”
Let us continue to raise that awareness, and “support those living, surviving and being impacted by cancer.”