By the end of this year, vaccines to prevent cervical cancer will be included in the national immunisation schedule.
Word of this has come from Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John. The Chief Medical Officer announced the Ministry of Health’s intention, as she explained that they are in complete support of universal access of preteens to vaccination for the prevention of cervical cancer.
Addressing the opening of a conference hosted by Cancer Support Services at the Hilton Hotel yesterday morning, Dr. St. John said that cancer of the cervix is among three forms of cancer that are of particular concern to the Ministry of Health – the other two being cancer of the prostate and breast.
“The Ministry has supported the testing of breast cancer HER 2 gene as a tool to improve the therapeutic outcome of persons with breast cancer. And finally, with respect to prostate cancer, of which I am aware there are about 120 deaths annually, we will continue to work with the NGOs to have men, who are traditionally difficult to reach, have access to prostatic specific antigen (PSA) testing,” she said.
She made the comments as she noted that statistics from the World Health Organisation suggests that up to 30 to 40 per cent of cancers are preventable. She explained that prevention involves lifestyle interventions, which include abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and conversely the consumption of fruit and vegetables and daily exercise.
“The Ministry is well aware that many of the changes leading towards cancer are made by risky behaviour commonly started in the teens and early twenties. This was recently borne out in the global School Health Survey in 2011, the results of which will be made available shortly. Young people are particularly at risk because they are aggressively targeted by manufacturers and distributors through the coolness of tobacco, and the good feeling surrounding the consumption of alcohol,” she said.
With that in mind, the CMO reminded those present that Government, in its 2011 Budget, supported the ‘ounce of prevention’ measures for adult Barbadians, which would allow persons to be able to claim on their income tax returns for simple prevention measures including diagnostics for cancer.
“These have included access to mammography for breast cancer, colonoscopy for colon cancer and pap smear testing for cervical cancer. While individual responsibility is important, we recognise that governments and societies must provide supportive environments, where healthy choices are easy and interventions, when needed, are readily accessible,” she added. (JRT)