Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for 7.6 million deaths, which is around 13% of all deaths in 2008.
Seventy percent of all cancer related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries such as Jamaica. In Jamaica, cancer is one of the top five causes of death in our population.
According to data from the Registrar General’s Department, in 2010, 3198, Jamaicans died due to cancer. The three most common types of cancer that kill Jamaican men are prostate, lung and colorectal and for women they are breast, cervix and colorectal cancer.
In 2009, there were 4,315 discharges from Government hospitals, including UHWI, for Cancer.
On World Cancer Day this year, the Ministry of Health is joining with the World Health Organization and supporting the International Union Against Cancer to urge persons to get the facts about cancers. This year will focus on Target 5 of the World Cancer Declaration: Dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer, under the tagline “Cancer – Did you know?”.
The myths that we must work towards dispelling are Myth 1: “Cancer is just a health issue”; Myth 2: “Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries”; Myth 3: “Cancer is a death sentence”; and Myth 4: “Cancer is my fate”.
The truth is that cancer has wide reaching social, economic and development implications. Approximately 47% of cancers and 55% of related deaths occur in less developed regions of the world. Its impact on persons also threatens the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the disease has been branded both a cause and outcome of poverty.
There is no specific age group that is affected; the disease affects persons from all age and socio-economic groups.
The good news is that the development and improvement in medical technology and treatment methods have resulted in successful treatment of many cancers and so the disease is no longer considered a death sentence. More than 30% of cancers could be prevented and cured if detected early and treated adequately.
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of cancer in the world.
In Jamaica, Cancer Prevention and Control has been afforded priority attention in view of the rapidly increasing trend globally and locally in the prevalence of cancers. A National Technical Working Group/Task Force on Cancer Prevention and Control has been put in place to develop that component of the National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases in Jamaica 2012 – 2017.
As a priority of this Government, work has already begun towards improving cancer care. In November last year, we officially opened the Ambulatory Chemotherapy Unit at the Kingston Public Hospital which is the first of its kind at the KPH and will provide enhanced care for cancer patients, while improving treatment and diagnostic services for increased survival and recovery. Sixty one patients were treated in the unit at KPH in November and that number increased to 101 in December.
If we are going to tackle this problem we must work together; all of government not just the Ministry of Health, civil society, persons living with and affected by cancer, private sector and academia are required to ensure the effective prevention and control of NCDs.
Some of the ways we can prevent cancer is by not smoking, sticking to a healthy diet, becoming more physically active, visiting our doctor to assess our cancer risk and getting screened.
I urge all Jamaicans to join me in this fight, get the facts about cancer and begin the quest to a healthier lifestyle as your commitment this World Cancer Day.
Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson
Minister of Health