Some types of cancer are on the rise in young people, according to Jamaican medical experts.
The revelation was made at a webinar, staged by the Ministry of Health and Wellness expressly for medical doctors and primary care practitioners, to commemorate World Cancer Day 2021.
Consultant Pathologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Tracey Gibson, speaking on Epidemiology of Cancer, gave data reporting cancer trends in Jamaica which also included the burden of cancer among adults, adolescents, young adults and children in Jamaica.
“The leading cancer in Jamaica is prostate cancer and the rate, according to the research findings, shows that the incidence of prostate cancer is not restricted to men over 60 but in fact… men between the 25 to 59 age range figure prominently,” Gibson said.
The other leading cancers in Jamaican males are lung, and colorectal. Both prostate and colorectal sites are increasing, Dr Gibson further outlined.
“The burden of cancer by age in our male population reveal that the top three cancers are highest in all three age ranges i.e. 25-59, 60-74 and 75 and over,” Gibson said.
Using the age ranges as given above in Jamaica’s female population, breast, cervix uteri and colorectal are the cancer types that affect most, with breast and colorectal increasing. Interestingly, it is in the younger age cohort that Jamaica is seeing the heaviest burden, Gibson explained.
In children under 18 years of age, leukaemia (blood cancers) is the most common childhood malignancy in both genders, she said, adding that cancers of the central nervous system and lymphomas (cancer of the immune cells) are also prominent.
According to the medical experts, cancer in children occurs infrequently compared to adults, but is very important to know about, as it is one of the leading causes of death in children under 14 years of age. The data presented indicated that there has been an increased awareness that adolescents and young adults are a distinct population when it comes to cancer.
While survival rates may be higher amongst adolescents and young adults with cancer compared to older adults, cancer patients in younger age groups have a higher risk of developing long-term effects stemming from their cancer such as organ damage, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and cancer later in life, the experts said.
A cancer diagnosis at this pivotal stage in life where young peoples’ independence is increasing, careers are beginning, and new relationships are forming can be particularly destabilising, the experts noted, adding that there is need for more research to try to understand the rates and causes of cancers in this age group in order to determine more effective treatment options.
“Advances in cancer prevention methods and treatment can have a huge, positive impact on the health of our nation’s adolescents and young adults so that they can be gaining independence and beginning their adult lives, not battling cancer,” said Dr Beverley Wright, Director of Health Systems Support and Monitoring at the Ministry of Health.
Wright further stated that, “This is why we are especially pleased that a nuclear medicine facility is to be established at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) as part of plans to advance cancer treatment in Jamaica. The facility is expected to provide enhanced cancer treatment services for Jamaicans”.
There are already two world-class cancer treatment centres in Jamaica, located at The St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston and the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness through its Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Injury Prevention Unit recognised World Cancer Day on Thursday, February 4, 2021, under the global theme, ‘Together, all our actions matter- I Am and I Will’, with insightful events, activities, media interviews and discounts on screening through its partners.
All information-driven efforts by the Ministry helped to provide increased awareness on/around cancer as well as spur the public to not only get screened but to develop a personal and proactive screening regimen based on individual factors.
The discounts on screening will continue with partners The Woman’s Place and The People’s Medical Lab throughout February.