Healthcare professionals offered a rare opportunity Saturday for residents to ask questions and discuss healthy living in a casual environment.

Hundreds benefitted from free health screenings and advice at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort for the fifth “Conquering Cancer” symposium, hosted every other year by the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.

“This is the health fair where the doctors are giving talks to real people, the consumers and other organizations. Charities and businesses that are health related come here to be exhibitors and help the community in every way to learn more and raise awareness for cancer, and just better general health,” said the Cancer Society’s operations manager, Jennifer Weber.

Local and visiting clinicians offered screenings for oral, breast and prostate cancers, as well as testing for body mass index, cholesterol and glucose.

Dr. Sook Yin explained that while medical staff could not diagnosis illnesses at the fair, they were able to start important and perhaps life-saving processes.

“The whole fair is basically about getting doctors to meet with patients out of the context of being in an office. This takes the stigma away by just talking in general. People don’t want to go see a doctor because they are scared of what they might be told,” Dr. Yin said.

“We want to get them at stage one. At stage one, you cut the lump out and that could be it.”

Ms. Weber shared the story of one woman who learned how to do a breast self-exam at the 2015 fair. The knowledge led to a successful breast cancer diagnosis.

A lump found during a home exam prompted her to request a mammogram voucher from the cancer society, making the test more affordable and accessible.

“While we are never happy that anybody has cancer, it did make us feel like, ‘wow, you are exactly the reason why we do this event.’ Had she not met that volunteer and checked herself, she might not have detected it for some period of time,” Ms. Weber said.

Ana Luisa Uria, director, Caribbean Business Development, Cleveland Clinic, right, and Governor Helen Kilpatrick meet at the Cleveland Clinic booth. – Photo: Vikki Legge

Dr. Yin said awareness programs have been successful at increasing early detection. Each October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she said there is a spike in diagnosis, due to greater focus on the issue.

This year’s event felt some disruption from Hurricane Irma, as doctors based in Florida struggled to secure flights for the trip. As a result, several local doctors from Health City and CTMH Doctors Hospital stepped in on short notice to provide public presentations on cancer prevention.

“We had lots of overseas hospitals (as sponsors). Unfortunately, they’re all in Florida, in Miami. So all of them were severely impacted by Hurricane Irma. So up until yesterday, we didn’t know who was coming and who was not,” Ms. Weber said.

One Florida oncologist who made the trip, Dr. Omar Rashid of Holy Cross Hospital, provided insight on lifestyle choices and cultural influence on cancer risk.

“Diet is so cultural. In terms of Caribbean foods, you think, how can I live and enjoy being in the Cayman Islands, for example, and at the same time be healthy? There are subtle little changes you can do, being aware of the value of certain things like carbohydrates,” Dr. Rashid said.

Doctors Omar Rashid, Sook Yin and Vivek Patel offered visitors health tips and insight. – Photo: Alvaro Serey

“People worry about sugar, for example. It’s the high energy sugars that are bad for you, like in sodas, as opposed to whole grains or beans. You can eat fish but when you eat fish that’s been fried, it’s not going to help you. Fish that has been blackened with a lot of barbecuing is not helpful. Smoking is not good.”

He encouraged the public to establish an ongoing relationship with their doctor to assess cancer risk and complete recommended screenings.

During the health fair’s opening ceremony, government officials declared the day Cancer Awareness Day in the Cayman Islands. The event will be officially recognized in future as a day for national cancer education.

Dr. Sook Yin, Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Betty Ann Duty, Jennifer Ahearn, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour and Miss Cayman Anika Conolly gather at the Conquering Cancer health fair at the Marriott hotel on Saturday. – Photo: Vicki Legge

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  1. Keep up the good work, Cayman Islands Cancer Society. And it was good to see so many availed themselves of the opportunity to get screened. Early detection is key to a healthy life style. That is why screening is so important. God bless those who volunteered their time and resources for this very worthy cause.