Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Sagicor Sigma Run To Raise Funds for Cancer Treatment

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill

This year's beneficiaries of the Sagicor Sigma Run are children with cancer across the island, the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) and the Black River Hospital Paediatric Unit.

Cancer in childhood, while relatively infrequent, represents the leading cause of death in children under 14 years old.

Dr Michelle Reece-Mills, consultant paediatrician/paediatric haematologist/oncologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), said that locally, up to 60 children across the island develop cancer yearly. The patients treated at the UHWI face unique challenges because the hospital is not covered under the 'no user fee' health policy of the Ministry of Health.

"Parents, therefore, have to pay the full cost of treatment, including upfront payment for chemotherapy drugs. The risk of a patient not completing treatment at the UHWI is high, and most families do not have the resources to pay for the care," Reece-Mills said.

"The cost of treating a child with leukemia for three years is approximately $2 million, while for children with solid tumours, radiotherapy often plays an important part of treatment. The cost of $1.5 million for treatment is also out of reach. In cases like these, the risk of children relapsing or dying, even in treatable cases, is increased," she added.

The Sagicor Group has set out to double last year's target of $25 million to assist in raising $50 million to contribute to the three causes.

EARLY DETECTION

According to Shullian Brown, fundraising and public relations officer at the JCS, the organisation has been on a mission to promote early detection that has helped to save the lives of many cancer patients.

"Early detection saves lives. Therefore, the goal of the Jamaica Cancer Society is to make screening affordable and available to the public that will have a vital impact on the quality of their lives," Brown said.

Diana Brown-Miller, chief executive officer of the Black River Hospital, said they were grateful and humbled to be considered to receive contributions from the run. "We are overwhelmed as it relates to space in the paediatric ward. We currently have 160 in-patients, with a capacity for 97.

We want to expand the area to facilitate more beds. We also need a blood-gas machine, lounge for our mothers and to be certified as a baby-friendly hospital," Brown-Miller said.

The patron's for this year's run are Jamaica-born Hollywood actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, sprinter and sub-10 king Asafa Powell, and track and field star and cancer survivor Novlene Williams-Mills.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com