Stakeholders to meet on national cancer plan

Following the conclusion of a three-day workshop, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), consultants and stakeholders will meet today to discuss the way forward for the formulation of a national cancer control plan.

The Cancer Diagnosis and Management workshop, which ended yesterday, consisted of presentations over the course of three days in the areas of cancer control, planning, prevention screening, diagnosis and treatment, and focused on the areas of cervical, breast and prostate cancer, the three leading forms of cancer in Guyana.

“Guyana is going to have a national plan for cancer come December, 2017 and that’s my promise, not just to myself, but to all of you here. Your inputs today would no doubt be a part of this plan, so, as such, when we roll it out, I expect the full support of everyone here in this room,” Dr Kavita Singh, of the MoPH, said in her closing remarks.

The participants, consisting of doctors and nurses, were asked yesterday to form four groups to consult on which areas they believe focus should be placed on in the preparation of a plan for the diagnosis and management of cancer locally.

The four areas identified were Cancer Prevention, Risk Factors and Screening; Information, Data, Registry and Communication; Treatment, including Diagnosis, Imaging and Staging; and Palliative Care.

The first group, presenting on cancer prevention, risk factors and screening, said they would like to see the administration of the HPV vaccine become mandatory, much like the yellow fever vaccine is.

They also made a case for increased health education and the promotion of lifestyle changes, through healthy eating and increased exercise. Following on an example given by Bahamian doctor Raleigh Butler, one suggestion for motivating the populace to keep fit was to have gyms set up at the ministries and have personnel be required to fulfill an exercise quota of at least 2 hours per week. Salary incentives could then be provided to persons who lose a certain amount of weight. This group lobbied for the implementation of the school canteen policy to ensure students are exposed to a healthy diet.

In terms of screening, among other suggestions, they noted that PAP smears and mammograms should be made available in the public healthcare system and self-breast examinations and clinical breast examinations should be promoted.

The areas of importance outlined for treatment included standardized guidelines for screening, having ultrasounds available in each region and having CT scans available in outlying regions.

A suggestion for improving the area of palliative care and ensuring a standardized practice, was for the establishment of a palliative care management system or unit to bring relevant stakeholders together.

Through this group, the ministry would be able to keep a registry of data, including the list of persons who require the service, so they are able to track how drugs are being used across the region.

The unit would have a point person in every “major hospital zone” to receive cases and be involved in the acquisition of drugs for their appointed area.

Proposals for the computerization of the public health system, with integration of data across departments was put forward by the group that dealt with information systems, data, registry and communication.

It was recommended that a unique patient ID be created for the database so that patients’ records could be constantly updated, thus making their medical histories readily available.

Additionally, there was a suggestion for direct lines to be set up to various departments within the hospitals.

This group also emphasized on the need for research to be a priority within the medical fraternity, and offered that this information can be kept online, where it can be readily accessible if the need for reference to a specific case should arise.

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