While non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a global issue, TT is one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to the burden of non-communicable diseases said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.
Deyalsingh said NCDs cost the country $6-8 billion a year to treat patients.
"It is a big burden on the economy of TT. That is the cost to us as a country. In January into February we are focusing on the five major cancers that affect us which include breast, ovarian, prostate, lung and colorectal,” Deyalsingh said.
He was speaking on Wednesday at the Eastern Regional Health Authority’s (ERHA) breast cancer awareness drive, at St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Sangre Grande.
Deyalsingh said the cancer drive would continue at other RHAs and would end when the ministry launches a new state-of-the-art linear accelerator (LINAC) in St James at the end of February, the first in TT.
The LINAC facility stands at a cost of $84.29 million and the facility would also offer more targeted treatment for some tumors, allowing for the treatment of tumours located in sensitive areas, improving patient throughput, reducing waiting times, potentially minimising treatment-related side effects, and it would have a positive impact on patient survival.
Deyalsinsigh said the initiative is about raising awareness and learning about early detection, which would offer hope and good news.
“If cancer is detected early, it is not a death sentence. I want you to understand that."
Deyalsinsigh encouraged young women to educate themselves about doing home examinations to detect any strange lumps in their breast.
"So that if one day you detect something strange, a lump, you know that it wasn’t there before. That is early detection that you could do at home. As women, teach your children teach your sisters and grandchildren how to examine their breast at home. And we can teach you that here,” Deyalsingh said.
ERHA's medical officer of health for St Andrew/St David Dr Allana Best said while the ERHA serves a rural population, it is in the authority’s interest to diversify the approach to reach the target population.
Best said the community is quite fortunate to have a mobile-clinic which is being used in remote areas.
She said, in the past, the RHA has been able to reach out to patients in Plum Mitan and Rampanalgas.
“While today’s event is important, it is by no means the end of our outreach approach. We will be utilising our mobile clinic to continue our screening like cancer in particular.
“We will do Pap smears, so look out for it when we are in your areas. We are also happy to partner with our business places to ensure that their employees are also screened appropriately. We would also be screening for hypertension and diabetes."