Cancer second cause of death in the Caribbean

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Cancer has become the second leading cause of death in the Caribbean and despite this growing burden, many Caribbean small island nations have health systems that struggle to provide optimal cancer care for their populations.

In a paper published in the Lancet, one of the world’s leading general medical journal, Dr Glennis Andall-Brereton, senior technical officer for non-communicable diseases at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) notes “cancer causes a fifth of deaths in the Caribbean region and its incidence is increasing”.

In the paper titled “Cancer Control in the Caribbean island countries and territories: some progress but the journey continues,” which she co-authored, it is noted that the incidence and mortality patterns of cancer in the Caribbean reflect globally widespread epidemiological transitions, and show cancer profiles that are unique to the region.

“Providing comprehensive and locally responsive cancer care is particularly challenging in the Caribbean because of the geographical spread of the islands, the frequently under-resourced health-care systems, and the absence of a cohesive approach to cancer control.

“In many Caribbean countries and territories, cancer surveillance systems are poorly developed, advanced disease presentations are commonplace, and access to cancer screening, diagnostics, and treatment is often suboptimal, with many patients with cancer seeking treatment abroad.

“Capacity building across the cancer-control continuum in the region is urgently needed and can be accomplished through collaborative efforts and increased investment in health care and cancer control,” the paper noted.

This third paper is part of a five-part series titled “Cancer Control in Small Island Nations” and places emphasis on the crucial role of collaborative approaches, including through funding and investment opportunities with more developed countries, to create comprehensive cancer control programmes to improve cancer planning, prevention, and treatment in these under-resourced small island nations

The fourth paper is titled “Advancing cancer care and prevention in the Caribbean: a survey of strategies for the region” and it identifies several promising initiatives to improve cancer prevention and treatment that have emerged across CARICOM countries.