Forum to discuss impact of COVID on cancer care

On World Cancer Day, Thursday, 4 Feb., the Health Services Authority will host a public forum for members of the healthcare industry and the general public about how COVID-19 has impacted cancer care in the Cayman Islands.

The event will be held at the Wharf Restaurant from 5:30-7:30pm.

The HSA will also light up the Cayman Islands Hospital in lavender, the awareness colour for all cancers, to commemorate the annual observance.

According to organisers, “Under the theme of ‘Cancer care during COVID-19’, the event will delve into the response of the healthcare systems and cancer support groups rapid reorganisation of cancer services to ensure that patients continue to receive essential care while minimising exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 infection. It will also explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the spectrum of cancer care, including delaying diagnoses and treatment.”

HSA oncologist-haematologist Dr. Lundie Richards said in order to mitigate problems and disruptions that have developed from the COVID-19 pandemic, “we must first fully understand them”.

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He said, “This forum is an opportunity to mobilise all relevant parties affected, from cancer care experts and support groups to cancer patients and the public, to discuss the impact in a holistic and transparent way. In this age, we see patients and their families becoming more involved in health care decision-making and this event supports this kind of participation. We can all work together to come up with better solutions for how to reduce the negative implications of COVID-19 on cancer care in the Cayman Islands.”

Concerns have been raised that during Cayman’s COVID-19 lockdown, early diagnosis of cancer in some patients may have been missed.

The forum will feature presentations by HSA cancer care experts, including Richards, and a panel discussion and display booths of cancer support groups in Cayman, including the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, Jasmine and the Cancer Registry.

“While COVID-19 may have had minimal impact on treatment since cancer patients continued their treatments at local hospitals, including HSA, under strict conditions to ensure their protection against the virus, there was a concerning reduction in screening and possibly diagnosis due to the lockdown,” Cancer Society operations manager Jennifer Weber said.

“With cancer-related charitable organisations such as CICS present, those in attendance will be able to get a clearer and broader perspective of the effects of this reduction, what sort of challenges may arise in the near future as a result, and how we can work collaboratively to mitigate and manage these issues,” she added.

Patients, survivors and attendees will also be able to share their experiences and ask questions. One continuing medical education credit will be awarded to healthcare workers who attend.

According to the latest data from the Cancer Registry, there was a 40% increase in registration for 2020 compared to the previous year, despite the lack of registrations for the months of April, May and June, due to the COVID lockdown.

“I hope that in addition to encouraging persons to resume recommended health practices such as getting screened, this World Cancer Day event will motivate people to join our national cancer registry so we can continue to collect this valuable data,” said Cancer Registrar Amanda Nicholson.

“The registry is voluntary and completely confidential and all cancer patients and survivors within the community are welcome to join. By sharing just a little bit of information about their diagnosis, they bring us closer to understanding what cancer trends look like in our country.”

Anyone wishing to register can contact Nicholson at 244-2560 or at [email protected].

Registration for the HSA World Cancer Day event is available on Eventbrite, ‘Cancer Care During COVID-19 – A World Cancer Day event’. Space is limited.

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