Sun | Oct 21, 2018

All-island data needed in cancer fight

Published:Friday | April 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Yulit Gordon, executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society

The Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) has called for a national cancer research agenda to improve the effectiveness of cancer control through cancer research and surveillance.

But for this to be achieved, Yulit Gordon, executive director of the JCS, has underscored the importance of all-island data, which must be provided by the National Cancer Registry (NCR), which was launched by the Ministry of Health (MOH) five years ago.

"We need to better understand the distribution and the determinants of cancer in the population," said Gordon on Wednesday during a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's North Street base. The forum was in observance of Cancer Awareness Month, recognised in April.

"In the absence of all-island data, we have had to rely on data coming out of the Jamaica Cancer Registry located at the University Hospital of the West Indies, but it reflects just a small sample size of the overall population," Gordon explained.

"Having access to all-island data will help in identifying the appropriate interventions to prevent and control cancer and will also assist in the appropriate healthcare planning and policy development. It will also help to analyse patterns of cancer care and identify ways to improve cancer-control programmes," she added.

Gordon further pointed out that the data would help to identify genetic, behavioural patterns, and environmental factors that contribute to cancer risk like tobacco and poor nutrition.

The health ministry started the process of implementing the NCR in 2013 as part of a global initiative to improve data collection. The initiative is being carried out in collaboration with PAHO and the Caribbean Public Health Agency Registry Hub.

Speaking with The Gleaner in October last year, director of non-communicable diseases and injury prevention in the MOH, Dr Tamu Davidson-Sadler, said that the registry was expected to produce its first report this year.

"It takes several years to build a good registry. Based on expert reports, it can take up to five years. Some of our key challenges have been staffing and customisation of the database," Davidson-Sadler said.