Health officials are working on drafting legislation to make it mandatory to report local cancer cases, according to Minister of Health Osbourne Bodden.
“We have been working on drafting legislation to make it mandatory for cancer to be reported in the Cayman Islands Cancer Registry so that we can get some robust data regarding the incidence of cancer in the Cayman Islands,” said Mr. Bodden in his response to the budget address at the Legislative Assembly on Monday.
A Cancer Registry Bill will be presented to Cabinet in the “near future” and will allow for a mandatory national cancer registry, according to Mr. Bodden.
If the bill passes, it will place a mandatory requirement on healthcare labs and physicians to report the incidence of cancer among residents to the cancer registry.
The cancer registry is currently voluntary and was first implemented in 2010 when the Health Services Authority and the Cayman Islands Cancer Society signed an agreement for the registry to be funded by the Cancer Society and housed and implemented by the HSA.
Since the establishment of the registration, details of only 230 cases have been registered, far fewer than the actual number of cases on island, according to Cancer Registrar Amanda Nicholson.
She said there had been poor reporting of the incidence of cancer locally and, in turn, an inaccurate depiction of the prevalence of the disease.
“Having reporting become mandatory is something that we’ve wanted for a very long time,” said Ms. Nicholson. “A lot of people don’t know there is a registry, or not sure how to get registered.”
“We’ve really been trying to do a lot of community outreach so that people know that there is a registry and we need everyone’s information,” she added.
Ms. Nicholson said that, without accurate figures, a legitimate analysis of the data could not be collected; for example, the prevalence of certain types of cancer.
“What we’re hoping to accomplish with this is that we find out for the first time what types of cancer are most common in our country. With that information, we can do more to develop preventative programs, treatment facilities, and possibly identify environmental factors that may cause cancer,” she said.
Lizzette Yearwood, chief executive officer of the Health Services Authority, said the mandatory registry would mean “data can be analyzed and meaningful information can be extrapolated and shared with the community regarding trends, risks and possible causes of cancer.”
Ms. Yearwood added that the reporting process in the mandatory registry “will be quick and simple to ensure maximum compliance and the confidentiality of the data will be paramount.”
The first step in terms of prevention would be accurate data collection, the health minister said. “Armed with this information, we will be better able to target our resources to ensure that we are making the greatest impact in terms of prevention,” he said, “and the data will also help guide us to make appropriate investments for treatment and care.”
The chairman of the Health Services Authority board, Jonathan Tibbetts said the authority supported the government in the mandatory registration initiative. “This registry will be extremely beneficial for the people in years to come and this government is to be commended for bringing such legislation,” he said.