Men are being urged to take care of their health as part of the ongoing thrust to reduce significantly deaths caused by cancer. In Tobago, at least, they are taking the call seriously.
On Monday, the TT Cancer Society (TTCS) mobile caravan began six days of cancer screening in Tobago, beginning at the Les Coteaux Health Facility. On Tuesday, it was at the Old Scarborough Hospital, and on Wednesday the team returned to the Les Coteaux Health Facility.
It will go to the Charlotteville Health Centre on Thursday and Friday, and the Scarborough port on Saturday.
Speaking with Newsday during day two of the screenings at the Old Scarborough Hospital, Fort King George, clinical manager at the TTCS Sherma Mills-Serrette said there is need for people to be educated on their health.
Scores of people were there to benefit from the screenings, which were done in collaboration with the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA).
Mills-Serrette said there has been a significant increase in screening over the years,and was pleased with the "excellent, overwhelming" turnout, which included more men than women.
In the past, men have been extremely hesitant to test for prostate cancer but this trend is changing.
The clinics run from 9am-2pm, "And by the time we get in around 7.30, the place is already full, " she said. "We have already started to turn back people here in Tobago and we’re only on day two.
“Last year, we were at the Bacolet Health Centre and I got the shock of my life: in three days we screened 206 men alone and I had to turn away in excess of 60 others.”
She explained that the TTCS is running two simultaneous clinics daily .
“We got sponsorship from when Scotiabank has their Women on the Move (fundraising event), so we are doing breast exams and Pap smears, so that’s a Scotia/ TTCS project. According to our assessments, patients will get mammograms and breast ultrasounds free, so you have to come to the Cancer Society to get those done. That is being done on the mobile bus.
"But FirstCaribbean Bank, they have the 60-programme sponsoring prostate cancer screening, which is excellent, so we are doing that as well.”
Mills-Serrette believes healthcare is not being taken seriously in TT, as she expressed gratitude to both CIBC FirstCaribbean and Scotiabank for their continued support.
“Imagine, we have to count on banks and people who are doing fundraisers. People cannot afford care. We’re seeing it every day."
She said it was a worldwide phenomenon and warned, the more sick people there were in a nation, the more strain was put on an already overwhelmed health system that is not up to scratch.
The answer is to try to prevent illness through communication, she said. as she issued a word of caution to Tobagonians.
“Educate yourself, get screened. Don’t sit down and just watch. You have to get up. There must be action. Go to your health centre, enquire. Health centre is not (just) for babies and people with sore foot, diabetes and hypertension."
Health promotion begins at the primary health care level, she stressed.
"If you already have diabetes and hypertension, you’re already putting yourself at risk for disease. Cancer is just another non-communicable disease"
There are things people do every day that put them at risk and stress is one of them, she said.
"Get involved, get educated, go and exercise, find out about diets, talk to the persons in primary health care. Care is your right. You are not begging for care. These health centres were built to serve the people – accessible and acceptable service.”
Pain is an indication that something is wrong, she pointed out. "Every pain is not a gas pain. It is better to be over-screened than put someone at risk and put me in jeopardy because you dismissed my concern. All we’re asking is that people be proactive enough to go and get the screening done. Nobody don’t care about your business,” she said.