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Health Minister Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said that the administration has decided to make the prevention and control of cancers “a major focus of our attention” to reduce deaths associated with the disease.

He said that cancers account for 20 per cent of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country. NCDs are responsible for 56 per cent of deaths in Jamaica and are costing the Government over US$170 million to treat annually.

He was speaking on November 13 at a Keeping Abreast Luncheon  hosted by the Jamaica Cancer Society in collaboration with Jamaica Reach to Recovery at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel  in New Kingston.

The Minister said his intention is to “pilot the charge” that leads to a broad spectrum attack on cancer, which includes prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care in concert with voluntary organisations such as the Jamaica Cancer Society.

"The goal is to, on a phased basis, streamline the cancer care path and systematically remove the bottlenecks in the public health system that reduces effectiveness, including as a first step, ensuring that we become current in providing timely results on biopsy samples and all other measures of testing," he said.

In this vein, the Minister informed that a technical working group has been formed to take a critical review of cancer care in the public sector, specifically focusing on the full spectrum of cancer control. 

He informed that regional technical directors and senior medical officers, who are also members of the group, were asked to identify the gaps that needed to be filled in order to facilitate the provision of the highest possible quality of health care at a cost that is affordable to the country and to make recommendations to fill these gaps.

Further, the Minister informed that a technical working group/task force on cancer prevention and control has been established to develop that aspect of the national strategic plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Jamaica.

“This component – cancer prevention and control, is being given priority attention in view of the rapidly increasing trend globally and locally in the prevalence of cancers,” he informed.

The national plan, whichis in response to the increase in the number of persons being diagnosed with NCDs, is now in its draft stage,and seeks to address risk factors for four main chronic conditionsincluding cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease.  The plan will focus on the 2012 to 2017 period.

A non-communicable disease is a medical condition, which is non-infectious and non-transmissible between persons. They are referred to as lifestyle diseases, because the majority of these conditions are preventable. The most common causes include tobacco use (smoking), alcohol abuse, poor diets (high consumption of sugar, salt, saturated fats, and trans fatty acids) and physical inactivity.