Health 

Cancer Center Aims Tackles Rise in Cancer Cases in Antigua and Barbuda

With the Port of Spain Declaration in 2007, the political leadership of the Caribbean Community {CARICOM} sought to strengthen the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The Declaration called for multisector policies and the strengthening of health systems, among other initiatives, to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean. Globally, the launch of several NCD movement contributed to the United Nations declaration on NCDs in 2011.

The NCD movement has led to a global focus on cancers, one of the four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  Governments throughout the Americas have endorsed the Pan American Health Organization {PAHO} and the World Health Organization {WHO} regional plan of action for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-2019

This provided the overall framework to address cancers and other NCDs along with the following recommendations: establishing national cancer plans and registries, implementing primary prevention policies as well as the implementation of the WHO framework convention on tobacco control.

The mere mention of the word cancer sends shivers through one’s spine.  For some, the C word immediately triggers loss of appetite and a state of chronic depression that may even lead someone to commit suicide. For those who are God-fearing, once a cancer diagnosis hits home, everyone begins to pray.

In recent times there has been an increase in cancers throughout Antigua and Barbuda. A vast number of those diagnosed are relatively young and able-bodied individuals; many have departed this life leaving their loved ones grief-stricken and financially disabled.

Cancer drains you physically as well as financially. For those with deep pockets and sizable insurance, they often get the best care money can buy.  But what of the poor man or woman who is working just to eat and pay the bills?

Once upon a time such persons would either be begging for donations or doing a number of fundraising activities as families desperately tried to save their loved ones. For many, these efforts proved futile as too often they were never able to generate enough funds to cover the cost of cancer treatments abroad.

This kind of dilemma is a truly heartbreaking experience for those with limited insurance coverage, as only a fraction of the treatment can be covered and many patients are unable to complete the required amount of treatments necessary to fight the disease.

Thanks to those with the vision and the financial capability, we in Antigua and Barbuda is now home to the Cancer Centre of the Eastern Caribbean. It offers high-quality radiation and chemotherapy treatments at competitive rates to residents of the Caribbean. For those without medical insurance coverage, treatments are heavily subsidized by the government of Antigua and Barbuda.

Glenn Jones, a radiation oncologist at the Centre commented recently on the rise in the number of cancer cases.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, cancers are more prevalent in women; for most women, it is breast or cervical cancers while the most common ones for men are cancers of the prostate.  Almost every prostate case which shows up here have advanced disease, they are harder to manage and more likely to fail and about two-thirds of all prostate patients require radiation,” said Jones.

“There needs to be a more clinical examination for cancers, the rectal for men, breast self -examination and mammography for the women. If we develop a national screening programme for those over forty years, we will see a reduction in the number of cancer-related deaths in five years.  We also have an opportunity to catch the disease early, so that there will be less chance of men and women dying.”

He emphasized the need for early detection and treatment in order for the treatments to be effective.

“The context of cancer treatments needs to be improved, we need to increase coordination between all doctors, we cannot have insurance or government taking a long time to decide whether the treatment will be covered or not. The cost to the society when persons in their productive years die is much greater than the cost of the treatment,” Jones added.

The Cancer Centre is based on a partnered care model.  The delivery of healthcare services comprises the partnership of private sector, public sector, and the general public, making treatment affordable to patients. It offers the following medical services, concierge service, treatment consultations, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

 

Photo: Cancer Center Experts in Antigua and Barbuda 

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