Today I join the global community and all our citizens in marking World Cancer Day, with a commitment to the slogan: “We can; I can”, which is a call to action for communities and individuals to do whatever they can to reduce the global burden of cancer.
Every year 8.2 million people worldwide die from cancer, with half of that number between the ages of 30 and 69. Before you can read this sentence one person somewhere on our planet will die from cancer. That’s one every 15 seconds – 22,466 every single day.
The statistics are equally alarming for the Americas. Cancer is a top health problem in our region accounting for 1.3 million deaths annually in the Americas, with half of that in the Caribbean and Latin America. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 1.7 million cases of cancer would be diagnosed in the Caribbean and Latin America by 2030.
Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and Argentina have the highest mortality rates for cancer according to PAHO. Further, statistics from the National Cancer Registry show that 13,100 died from cancer in our country between January 1998 and December, 2007, an average of 1,456 each year or 121 cancer deaths each month (about 4 every day for the past nine years). Just this week author, historian and archivist Angelo Bissessarsingh became one of the latest victims of this dreaded disease.
With such alarming statistics we need to demand that the government pays greater attention to cancer detection and treatment. Politicians alone cannot do it; we must all put pressure on the administration to strengthen public health policies for cancer prevention, including policies on tobacco control, alcohol reduction, diet and physical activity.
Cancer treatment was and continues to be a top priority for me, and that is why I devoted a great amount of attention and resources for detection and treatment of cancer during my tenure as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. We started construction of the National Oncology Centre at Mount Hope, which, like so many other health projects, continues to remain at a standstill under the present administration.
Cancer is a potential threat to all of us; no one is immune. That is why today I urge everyone to keep the conversation going so all of us will increase our awareness and knowledge of cancer.