April 09, 2018
Regional and international health experts met in New Providence over the weekend to discuss a number of major issues relating to women’s health during the Caribbean Gynecological Cancer Society’s (CGCS)Third Annual Symposium.
Held at the Warwick Hotel, Paradise Island, the discussions centred on areas such as cervical cancer and recent advances in ovarian and endometrial cancers. Screening for cervical cancer was also “prominent” on the symposium’s agenda.
Addressing the Symposium’s Opening Session, Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis applauded the organizers of the Symposium for “taking this giant step forward in women’s health, and in particular, oncological care, by inviting regional and international experts to our shores to share their experiences with us.”
“Our newly formed Society has an awesome responsibility. Your programme today shows that you are up to the task,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
“You have taken, head-on, the issues of cervical cancer screening, its implementation, unacceptable outcomes, and why we must do better. You have also taken on the cutting-edge technology issues such as hypo-fraction radiation therapy and recent advances in ovarian and endometrial cancers.
“More importantly, you have the support of the entire gynecological cancer community in the region. I look forward to this Gynae-Oncology update and the promise of a healthier future for our women in the Caribbean,” Prime Minister Minnis added.
Prime Minister Minnis said the discussions were “topical” as the burden of cervical cancer is high in The Bahamas with almost one new case being diagnosed per week.
“In The Bahamas, we recognize that our crude incidence rate of new cases of Cancer of the Cervix (24.5/100,000) exceeds that of the rest of the Caribbean average of 23.6/100,000 and is almost twice that of the GLOBOCAN data of 15.1/100,000. At almost one new case per week being diagnosed, cervical cancer ranks as the second-leading cause of female cancer in The Bahamas, and the second-most common female cancer in women aged 15-44 years.
“The burden of cervical cancer is high,” Prime Minister Minnis continued, “(it) represents the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in women and the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women ages 15-44 years of age. The concomitant physical and mental suffering and the socio-economic impacts are immeasurable. Premature deaths and disability come at huge national costs.”
Prime Minister Minnis also told the health experts that The Bahamas commenced its national HPV Vaccination Programme in 2015, making the vaccine available in the public healthcare system.
Global health experts say the vaccine helps to prevent the human papilloma virus (HPV) types that cause most cervical cancers.
Research from Australia indicates a number of successes after a decade of national HPV vaccine administration to its at-risk reproductive age-group.
In the first four-to-five years after the programme started, there was a 77 per cent decrease in the number of 18-24 year old women with HPV (for the HPV types covered by the vaccines.) Pre-Cancerous abnormalities also decreased – by 34 per cent in 20-24 year olds, an indicator that they will be at much lower lifetime risk of ever developing cervical cancer.
“With The Bahamas Expanded Immunization Programme boasting a 100 per cent coverage in our school population, we have the promise of similar reductions in HPV-related disorders as we roll out the HPV vaccines of our reproductive age group at-risk,” Prime Minister Minnis added.
The Caribbean Gynecologic Cancer Society was formed in 2015 by a group of senior regional gynecologic surgeons and gynecologic oncologists, including those from The Bahamas, dedicated to improving the care of regional women with, or at risk of developing, gynecological cancer. The Society was incorporated in 2017.
Bahamian doctors listed among the Society’s Founding Membership include Dr. Raleigh Butler, Dr. Darron Halliday, Dr. Hubert A. Minnis and the late Dr. Bernard J. Nottage.
By Matt Maura