Cancer registry on the way

For the first time, the Cayman Islands is setting up a cancer registry that will enable health professionals to track the prevalence of cancer here.

Currently, there is no way of knowing what types of cancer are most common and what demographic is most affected by cancers because no registry exists.

Christine Sanders, who sits on the board of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, said the registry would be a collaboration between the Cancer Society and the Health Services Authority and she expected it to be up and running by the middle of this year.

‘It is going to give us a better picture of what is happening with the number of cancer cases on the Island and the types of cancers,’ she said.

The Health Services Authority is hiring a cancer registrar to coordinate a database system that will record the types and extent of cancers and tumours.

The only data about cancer that is regularly recorded by the Health Services Authority is that which is processed by the pathology laboratory at the Cayman Islands Hospital. Patients who are treated outside the public health system or who go off island for treatment are not accounted for when statistics on local cancers are collated.

Dr. Greg Hoeksema, medical director of the Health Services Authority, said the registry would help the medical profession better understand the prevalence of various cancers and ensure that patients get proper care, treatment and follow-up service.

He added that it would also address the long-standing belief in Cayman that cancer was more prevalent here than in other places.

‘Cancer is such an emotional topic and with an island as small was we are, you hear people talk about more cancers than you would in a larger population area, especially with links of kinship. The bottom line is we don’t know. Having a cancer registry will help us to understand,’ he said.

‘Step one is establishing the registry, step two is, if there is a higher instance of cancer, we can say ‘why is that?’… We need the data so we can establish whether or not that is true.

‘Certainly it is very fair to ask questions such as does the mosquito spray have some impact – the reality is we don’t have the answer to the question,’ he said.

The cost of the new system is not yet known as the Health Services Authority is still sourcing the necessary software and equipment, Mr. Hoeksema said.

The Authority is also working with the Pan American Health Organisation to establish the database system.

Health officials will work with local private doctors to encourage them to support and add data to the registry to keep better track of the types of cancers seen in Cayman.

‘The registry database will only be as good as the information we can get in there. By working with the Cancer Society, we will be reaching out and working with private practices so that they know the database is available and can feed the information into the system,’ Mr. Hoeksema said.

The Health Services Authority also plans to launch a public education and awareness campaign to let people know about the registry and what it aims to achieve.

Through this campaign, Mr. Hoeksema hopes patients who go off island for diagnosis and treatment will be aware of the importance of registering their illness locally, so the Authority can record it.

The cancer registry will be a systematic collection of data about cancer and tumour diseases collected by the cancer registrar who captures a summary of patient history, diagnosis, treatment and status for every patient in Cayman.

Patient confidentiality would apply to the system, Mr. Hoeksema said.