Cancer is Now Second Leading Cause of Death in the Caribbean

Senior Technical Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases at CARPHA, Dr. Glennis Andall-Brereton

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday August 13, 2019 – Cancer is now the second leading cause of death, after cardiovascular disease, in most countries and territories in the Caribbean.

That’s according to a recently published paper, Cancer Control in the Caribbean island countries and territories: some progress but the journey continues, co-authored by Senior Technical Officer for Non-Communicable Dr Glennis Andall-Brereton, Diseases at CARPHA which notes that “cancer causes a fifth of deaths in the Caribbean region and its incidence is increasing.”

It further notes that 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,” it said.

“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 authors lamented that the grouping by policy makers like the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the Caribbean region with other, larger nations in the Americas means the cancer-control issues in small islands are often overlooked or downplayed.

Dr Andall-Brereton and the others say strengthening cancer-control programmes should start with those interventions that are the most cost-effective and benefit the largest populations: For example, in the absence of any existing cancer control plan, rapid gains can be made via an initial focus on prevention (including tobacco control), improving diagnostic capacity, basic treatment for a few common cancers, and palliative care.

The paper suggested that concerted action is needed to reduce cancer incidence in the Caribbean, especially considering the projection of cancer cases and deaths in the region up to 2040.

It said that even if cancer incidence remains stable over the next two decades, demographic changes will result in a projected cancer burden of 160,564 new cases – an increase of 55 per cent – and 101 693 deaths – an increase of 67 per cent – between 2018 and 2040.

The paper is the third in the Lancet Series Cancer Control in Small Island Nations”.

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