Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Cancer is a ‘dirty disease’

Published:Monday | October 21, 2019 | 12:10 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Participants look on during presentations at the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus last Sunday. The conference was staged to look at cancer in people of African ancestry, because they are more affected by the disease than other races.
Participants look on during presentations at the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus last Sunday. The conference was staged to look at cancer in people of African ancestry, because they are more affected by the disease than other races.

Ewan Cobran’s devastating reality of losing two of his grandparents in a matter of months to cancer, was what sent him a few years ago on a mission of advocacy.

The Jamaica-born United States citizen was one of the presenters at the 7th International African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston last week. His focus was on the guidelines cancer patients need to adhere to after they receive treatment.

Following his presentation, Cobran, an assistant professor in pharmaceutical health services at the University of Georgia, opened up to The Gleaner as he explained why he describes cancer as a “dirty disease.”

“It is nasty and dirty and I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I see [among] a lot of Jamaicans, a lot of Africans and African Americans, [that] the mortality rate from prostate and other forms of cancers are high.

“One thing I witnessed around 2008 was my grandfather dying from prostate cancer. He was also blind. The week after my grandfather was buried in Jamaica, my grandmother returned to the States and was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer.”

Cobran is convinced that something went horribly wrong with the medical procedures his grandmother went through.

Experience was devastating

“That experience was devastating in terms of seeing my grandmother, who was so lively, struck down by this disease and the fact she was getting regular check-ups. Something happened in the medical system, where my 61-year-old grandmother was diagnosed late after it had spread to her lungs and brain. Something went wrong somewhere.”

He said the main aim of his presentation was to get patients to understand what should take place after receiving treatment for prostate cancer. Cobran explained that in the US, standard guidelines set out by the Comprehensive Cancer Network dictate that after definitive treatment for prostate cancer, a man should be under surveillance and tested at least twice a year for around five years.

“After treatment and surgery, a man can get cardiovascular disease or even diabetes. How do you monitor that kind of stuff. The disease can progress after radiation and treatment.”

Founder and chairperson for the conference, Dr Camille Ragin, who is also a Jamaica-born cancer epidemiologist living in the US, said the main reason for staging the conference is the “fact that cancer affects populations of African ancestry more disproportionate than other racial groups around the world”.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com