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More people being tested but not enough, says Jamaica Cancer Society

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 5:28 PMGary Spaulding

In its never-ending battle against deadly onslaughts, the Jamaica Cancer Society has its eyes set on saving no less than 10 per cent of the lives under attack from raging cancerous diseases.

"Ideally, we would want to to be in a position to screen 10 per cent of the target population," asserted Dr Yulit Gordon, executive director of the Jamaica Cancer Society.

Gordon disclosed during a Gleaner Editors' Forum yesterday that the target population is approximately 350,000 men and women, the bulk of whom are still not being screened.

"Women can say look at me with no breast, I am still here and healthy; I am being productive. And men who have gone through prostate cancer experience can say to others, its nothing to worry about, here I am; I have survived it," asserted Gordon.

But Gordon conceded that the target is still below the global objective. "There is a global target of 25 per cent of the the total population at risk by the year 2025," she said.

Gordon said the global target has been set with the intention of making screening accessible to all those who need it. "But for now, 10 per cent is the target that we have set," she said.

Added Gordon: "I think it is safe to say collectively that the Jamaica Cancer Society, the Ministry of Health's screening programmes and that of the private medical facilities are still not screening 10 per cent of the overall population."


Significant increase


Gordon pointed to what she characterised as an uptick in the numbers of Jamaicans pouring into centres for screening of the range of likely afflicting cancers.

"We have seen a significant increase in the number of persons coming forward to be screened," she said. "We are very pleased with the leaps and bounds that we have managed to accomplish where prostate cancer screening in particular is concerned."

Gordon noted that in 2014, in excess of 8,927 women were screened in the breast cancer clinic of the Jamaica Cancer Society, while another 8,648 were screened for pap smear.

She revealed that 1,207 men were screened for prostate cancer. But while this figure is significantly fewer than that of their female counterparts who poured into the clinics for breast cancer and pap smear, it marked an improvement over previous years.

"When you look at 2013, for the male screening, only 704 males were screened and before that, we screened 685 males," said Gordon. "When you look at that comparison to a figure of 1,207, that's significant progress."

Gordon disclosed that for 2013, the number of mammography screening was 8,475 compared to 7,429 the previous year with last year being 8,927.

"Against that bit of information, we are seeing an uptake in the number of men and women who are coming forward to be screened," said Gordon.

She reiterated that the message of the Jamaica Cancer Society is that "early detection is the key", and noted that females are still more likely to get screened. "... we did not have a campaign last year for breast cancer and cervical cancer but we still attained those numbers," she said

Added Gordon: "We did a prostate cancer campaign and we also extended the screening programme out to Manchester and Montego Bay (St James), in order to realise a figure of 1,207 men."

She conceded that the figures for men coming forward has improved, they remain comparatively low. "It absolutely is but it requires a lot of work and we use a lot of testimonials," she said.