The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to open a department of Oncology (cancer treatment unit) at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by next month.

“We are trying to strengthen and improve the provision of medical services to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and one of the specific initiatives that we are embarking upon right now is to have the department of Oncology up and operational within another month,” said the Minister of Health, Sen. Luke Browne.

“I think the only thing which is left for its completion would be the installation of a bio-safety cabinet and I think that would probably happen within the next couple weeks.”

“So I anticipate that before, say, the end of November, we would have everything in place to have the unit up and running.”

The health minister said that the MCMH health system will try its best to treat whatever diagnosis of cancers as possible.

“There would be some limitations on our local capacity, but, we are building up relationships and partnerships with entities aboard to overcome any limitations or obstacles.”

There is the Cancer Centre of the Eastern Caribbean, which is based in Antigua and Barbuda, and the government also has treatment arrangements with hospitals in Guyana, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The Oncology unit at the MCMH would be able to provide chemotherapy as a start and will save patients money and time and travel. The main thing is for early detection and treatment. However, radiation will not be available but the Ministry is considering the option in the future.  The main plan is to be able to diagnose cancers earlier, before it gets to the latter stages, stage 3 and 4, even the most advanced cancer treatment centers are probably not going to be able to make the best interventions for the purpose of saving lives and minimising pain and discomfort.

Statistics show that cancer is the number one cause of death in SVG. Some 10 percent or more of the deaths are cancer-related, based on the monitoring and evaluation reports by the Ministry of Health.

Breast cancer is the most prevalent for females while among males, it is prostate cancer and colon cancer next.

It is a rising epidemic of cancers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it is very serious, and through the Oncology department the Ministry of Health hopes to get this problem under control with the limited resources and partnership with the business community.

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