NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (February 04, 2021) — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) to mark World Cancer Day which is observed on February 04, 2021.
Today is termed World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day is a global initiative under which nations unite to target misinformation, raise awareness, encourage support, action, and advocate for funding for the prevention, detection, and treatment of this malignancy.
As we are aware, cancer remains a major universal concern, as millions of persons would have lost their lives to this dreaded disease. It has been reported that breast and prostate cancer are the most prevalent in women and men, while colorectal and lung cancer are common in both genders.
This year, marks the culmination of the three year ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign. The theme for this year is ‘Together, all our Actions Matter”. This theme suggests an approach of collaboration, cooperation and collective action. It also encourages a shared responsibility of individuals, communities, governments and the whole of society to work together to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with cancer.
In 2019 and 2020, the Federation’s Public Health Laboratory recorded an alarming 77 and 67 new cases of cancers respectively. This is a major cause for concern, as we must bear in mind that besides human suffering and death, the financial cost incurred for the treatment of cancer, can be astronomical for families, the health care system and the economy. Direct costs include expenditures for treatment, as well as the cost of care and rehabilitation. Indirect costs include the loss of economic output due to absenteeism from work due to illness and premature death. “A country’s Health is the Nation’s Wealth. Therefore, we must all work together in the war against cancer.
For that reason, the Ministry of Health and Gender Affairs remains committed to programmes that focus on prevention care and treatment of cancer. In fact, cancer has taken much prominence on our Non-Communicable Disease portfolio. However, I am happy to report that there is hope, as studies would have shown, that primary prevention offers the greatest public health potential and the most cost-effective, long-term cancer control.
Through collaboration with the Pink Lily Foundation and the Health Promotion Unit, the Ministry will continue to promote awareness and educate the general public about the risk factors related to cancer. We are fully committed to providing screening opportunities such as breast examination and pap smear screening which can be accessed at all of our community health centres, free of charge.
It is necessary to note, that the recent Community Health Nursing Services Annual Pap smear drive, done in recognition of cervical cancer month saw 146 Women screened in 2021, in comparison to 113 women screened in 2020. We sincerely applaud the effort made by the community to safeguard itself against this disease, and encourage everyone to take advantage of the services offered by the ministry in this regard.
We have also implemented the HPV vaccine to primary school children, which will help protect them against HPV infection and the six types of cancer it can cause. Screening is also available for cancers such as prostate and colon.
Although there are no sure ways to prevent cancer, there are measures that can be taken to help reduce one’s risk. As individuals we can help to reduce our risk of cancer by making healthy choices. In support of the “I Am, I Will Campaign” you can Make the pledge:
- “I Am: An Advocate, a Supporter, a Survivor I Will: – Eat right (which includes consuming a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables, and by reducing salt, fat and sugar intake)
- Stay active (at least 30 mins of moderate exercise)
- Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol
- Get screened
Regular screening increases the chances of an early detection of cancers such as breast, colon, cervix, and skin cancer. If cancer is found early, it can be easier to treat and the survival rate increases.
Finally, in observance of Cancer Day, the Ministry of Health and Gender through the Health Promotion Unit would like to engage individuals, businesses and institutions to take part in their initiative dubbed ‘The Cancer Code’. We encourage persons and businesses to acknowledge one type of cancer, be it cervical, breast, and colon, prostate or skin and wear the colour that represents that particular cancer.
We are forever reminded of the old adage, “Early detection Saves lives.” The impetus is for us to work robustly with our stakeholders to support existing policies aimed at promoting health and wellness. In doing so, our efforts, no doubt, will translate into a healthier population, and a healthier country as a whole.