A Nuclear Medicine Facility is to be established at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in early 2020, as part of plans to advance cancer treatment in Jamaica.
Dr Beverley Wright, Director of Health Systems Support and Monitoring in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, made the announcement, while addressing a recent think tank session, organised by The Jamaica National Group entitled: “Beyond Breast Cancer,” as part of the group of company’s “Power of Pink” campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, internationally observed in October.
Dr Wright said the facility, which is to provide enhanced cancer treatment services for Jamaicans, will be established in January, in collaboration with the UHWI and the Government of Jamaica.
She informed that nuclear medicine uses a trace amount of radioactive substance for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart diseases and other chronic conditions.
“It allows doctors to observe physiological functions and metabolic activity in the body; and it is useful to ascertain the metastasis or spread of cancers, which will ultimately guide doctors, as to how best to treat it,” she explained.
Dr Wright added that, while nuclear medical treatment is offered in the private sector, its availability in the public sector will mean that patients will be required to pay a minimal fee for treatment.
With data showing that the incidence of cancer, including breast cancer, is increasing worldwide, the Ministry of Health said fighting the deadly disease is a “national priority.”
It is estimated that one in 21 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which is the leading cancer; and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women.
Dr Wright further informed that, despite the challenges, the government has made significant strides in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, during the past five years.
“With the help of our international and local partners, we have developed a National Cancer Plan; and we are vigorously implementing this plan,” she related.
She also noted that, as part of its strategy, the Ministry will be upgrading the two National Cancer Treatment Centres, located in Kingston and St James, to Cancer Treatment Centres of Excellence, to provide more comprehensive and integrated care facilities for cancer patients.
Dr Wright also informed that through these facilities, more Jamaicans will be able to access world-class cancer treatment services, such as radiation and chemotherapy.
She also said currently, the government is finalising the guidelines for the screening and treatment of breast cancer. “Just this week, the Minister launched the Enhancing Health Care Service Delivery Project, which will increase access to screening and diagnosis of cancers.”
The project is expected to provide certain diagnostic services free of cost, to patients in the public health system, by outsourcing to private facilities. The services include CT and MRI scans, ultrasound, mammograms, endoscopy and histopathology, without user fees.
The government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ten diagnostic service providers, across the country, last week to implement the project.
It is estimated that more than 60,000 Jamaicans will benefit, costing the government approximately $200 million over the next year.
Power of Pink is a JN Group initiative, now in its second year. It is geared towards supporting the efforts of the Jamaica Cancer Society to increase awareness of the importance of early cancer detection, to empower survivors, and pay homage to those who have lost the battle.
Among the activities planned for this year’s Power of Pink Campaign are free health screenings and cancer talks in select branches across the island. The JN Bank has also committed to donate $10 to the JCS and the Jamaica Reach to Recovery for each transaction made with a JN Bank VISA credit card, during October.