NASSAU, Bahamas — Health Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said Thursday that cancer has become “one of the most dreaded and prolific illnesses” in The Bahamas; the burden of which extending far beyond the cancer victim or survivor to families and friends.


Addressing the Opening Session of the 3rd Annual Caribbean Association of Oncology and Hematology Conference, Dr. Minnis said officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) predict a rise in the incidence of cancers by 50 per cent by the year 2020 due largely to lifestyle factors.


Cancer rates in developing countries are progressively approaching those in the industrialized nations due largely to an increase in the average age of populations, the control of other diseases and the increase in the use of tobacco products, he noted.


Dr. Minnis said cancer, with its high prevalence and mortality rate continues to rank among the world’s deadliest and most costly diseases. “It is no secret that heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in The Bahamas,” he added.


The Health Minister told delegates attending the Conference that the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Public Health and the Public Hospitals Authority, has implemented a number of strategies designed to help stem the increase in cancers in The Bahamas.


One such measure is the availability of cancer-care services at the state-owned Princess Margaret Hospital that consist of therapeutic modalities for inpatient and outpatient care. Other services include diagnostic imaging, surgery, cytology, hematology, pathology, surveillance, pediatric, oncology, gynecological oncology, pharmacy and counseling.


Dr. Minnis said healthcare officials also commissioned a state-of-the-art Oncology Centre on January 15, 2009, that is equipped with modern technology and which will offer the “best quality care” to cancer patients.


“Bridging the gap from patient to cure must be done through effective patient education, devoting resources to delivering quality, safe, cost-effective, socially responsible and compassionate healthcare services in a caring environment (that) puts patients first,” Dr. Minnis said.


 “The physicians and our entire disciplinary team work together with patients and their families to ascertain what the best course of treatment and/or action,” Dr. Minnis added.


The Ministry of Health has also implemented a Healthy Lifestyles Programme that is geared towards raising public awareness to the importance of healthy living, and has launched an initiative geared towards preventative healthcare as opposed to curative healthcare.


Dr. Minnis said provisions have also been made to facilitate research for improved cancer treatment in The Bahamas and that there is an ongoing study of Breast Cancer in women that is being conducted by Dr. Judith Hurley, Medical Oncologist at the University of Miami, in collaboration with Bahamian physicians, Drs. John Lunn, Theodore Turnquest and DeVaughn Curling.


“The Ministry of Health supports and applauds the efforts and successes of several non-governmental and non-profit organizations such as the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, the Sister-Sister Group and the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative, in raising public awareness of cancer locally,” Dr. Minnis said.


“These groups are working tirelessly in spreading the message of prevention,” Dr. Minnis added.