Prostate cancer worry

Call made for national screening programme to facilitate early detection

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, September 06, 2018

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EXECUTIVE Director of the Jamaica Cancer Society Yulit Gordon is calling on the Government to draft a policy which, she believes, would establish a national screening programme to facilitate the early detection of prostate cancer.

In fact, Gordon wants the Government to allocate funds towards research that will help to guide policy development which should address cancer care among the population.

Of the screening provided by the Cancer Society targeting 2,000 men in 2017, some 1,400 men were examined. Gordon said 5.6 per cent of them were subsequently referred for confirmatory transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsies.

She said the majority of the men who presented for screening were over the age of 50 years, which speaks to multiple barriers to prostate cancer screening given that screening should begin at age 40.

“We have had meetings with the Ministry [of Health]. Together we have identified the gaps where cancer care [is concerned] and also the prevention strategy at the national level. Among the areas identified is, one: the national cancer registry, where we can get a better handle on the distribution determinants of cancer in the Jamaican population.

“Two: the fact that we really need to establish the national cancer screening programme which would serve to cover at least 80 per cent of the population in order to have that impact because if we are saying that early detection is key to having a favourable outcome; the Cancer Society is about prevention and screening as a tool for that. It goes without saying, so I guess we have to just be more aggressive advocates,” Gordon said at yesterday's Jamaica Observer Press Club.

Prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world and affects 72.7 per 100,000 Jamaican men.

It is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country and the island has one of the highest prostate cancer mortality rates in the Caribbean.

For Dr Belinda Morrison, tackling prostate cancer must start at the policy level.

“...You don't have screening at a tertiary facility. It has to be at primary health care. These are clinics, doctors' office, health centres. So if you have that policy whereby doctors in primary care are advised that once they see patients at a particular age they should institute screening and recommend annual visits, or like in the UK (United Kingdom) where a mail is sent out to someone. So you have the date of birth of everybody in your population, so once you know a man reaches age 40 he's going to get a letter to say you need to come in for screening. We must have something like that.

“It doesn't require much in terms of infrastructure. It's just a physician who can perform the physical exam and blood test which is already available in our public health care system,” the urologist said.

Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells begin to grow in the prostate, a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include race, as Afro-Caribbean men are at a higher risk of developing the illness, family history, high/fat red meat diet, obesity and smoking.

Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaica for the past 15 years.

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