REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
IN OBSERVANCE OF WORLD CANCER DAY ON FEBRUARY 4
Good morning church. I bring greetings to the leadership, members and friends here at the Upper Room Victory Church. World Cancer Day, this year, was observed on February 4th under the theme 'I Am and I Will.'
Today, as we are in the grips of a world pandemic, I am especially happy to join with you in the FIGHT, the P.U.S.H and the HOPE for A CURE as you continue your mission of World Cancer Awareness. When we put these two themes together, it says I Am and I Will FIGHT, P.U.S.H and Hope for A CURE.
This is so very fitting, as we must each make this a personal Fight, and Pray Until Something Happens, HOPE until something happens, until there is a Cure. Today’s World Cancer Awareness Service is one of many activities to bring awareness to the FIGHT within our Territory; and I congratulate you Pastor Herbert, the entire church and your team here on this initiative to bring awareness of our community here in the British Virgin Islands. When we choose to come together, we can achieve what we all wish for: a healthier, brighter BVI without the scourge of cancer.
Screening and early intervention can avert the loss caused by late diagnosis and treatment for many of the common cancers that affect our Territory. Both women and men should be encouraged to have their annual physicals. Women of child-bearing age should continue to have regular Pap smears in accordance with their doctors’ recommendation to reduce the incidence of cervical cancers by the early detection and treatment of pre-cancerous cervical lesions.
Similarly, women over the age of 45 should have regular breast self-examinations and annual mammograms to ensure that any abnormalities are detected early before they become more difficult to treat breast cancers. Men over the age of 45, though they are scared of needles, should have their prostates checked in accordance with their doctors’ recommendations to reduce the risk of prostate cancer; and all adults should be encouraged to have colonoscopies at least every seven to ten years to detect colon cancers early and prevent colon cancers. Members of the health teams are here and I know they will be looking at my every word. Other cancers can also be prevented and detected early by regular annual physical examinations and reviews.
However, prevention of cancer by early detection is one matter while healthy lifestyles and diets are another. You heard the motivational speech this morning. It is well known that diets high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in red meats reduce the incidence of cancer at the population level.
All persons are encouraged to eat at least five servings of fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. Regular physical activity is also known to be preventative. This should comprise of at least three to five periods of 30 minutes or more for each week. This may be as simple as brisk walking, taking a swim, playing a sport; anything that keeps your body active.
In addition to the Complete Health Improvement Program which we have been pushing in the Ministry, these are part of a healthy lifestyle which involves not smoking and avoiding alcohol in excess which is known to be protection against obesity, chronic diseases and cancers.
Through the National Health Insurance programme, as challenged as it previously was, the Government seeks to improve access to cancer care for its citizens. We are aware of how financially and emotionally devastating a diagnosis of cancer can be at a time when persons and their families require all the strength needed to win the battle that they face.
Through the National Health Insurance and their network of cancer care providers locally and abroad, the Government of the Virgin Islands seeks to improve the access to the residents of the Territory to effective and proven cancer care. This, it is hoped, will have a profound impact on the availability of care to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The local Cancer Society under the leadership of its president Gloria and all of the members work consistently year after year, day after day to bring awareness to this society. They, together with counsellors and social workers in private and governmental practices and the networks of support available to persons accessing care abroad have been able to provide cancer patients and survivors with the necessary moral support and care that they need to get through these difficult times.
As science and medicine makes more effective screening tools and treatments available there remains hope for cancer patients and survivors. We must continue to hope and pray as these more effective tools bring hope of a brighter future. However, we must not neglect to do our part in cancer prevention and live healthy lives, eat healthy diets, indulge in regular physical activity, avoid smoking, avoid alcohol in excess, and ensure we get our regular physical checkups and cancer screening based on our age and gender.
Get involved and see how you can help with your local Cancer Society or the Ministry of Health, your church or community group, change your lifestyle to a healthy one and help other persons to also live healthier lives.
We must continue to hope and believe that better is within our reach. Research shows that more persons are living longer after a cancer diagnosis. It will take all of us to make this world a healthier one and to end preventable cancer deaths in the Territory. We all have a role to play.
Dr Cary Adams, CEO of Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) noted that: “COVID-19 has impacted cancer control globally and the response by the cancer community has been extraordinary, heroic even. This year, more than ever, it is appropriate that we celebrate their achievements on World Cancer Day. Let us all aim in 2021 to refocus our collective efforts on the long-term challenges that cancer poses to every country in the world. We must prevent more, diagnose earlier and ensure that all people living with cancer have access to the quality treatment they need.”
World Cancer Day 2021 was dedicated to the courage and achievements of people living with cancer and their families, as well as the nurses, doctors, researchers, volunteers, advocates and others who care for them and work on their behalf – and calls for everyone in helping to save lives from this disease.
Now more than ever, where the same nurses, doctors, researchers, volunteers, advocates and others who care for those affected by COVID-19 have to go day after day, hour after hour and they are tired. But at the end of the day, they are all working together for each of us. Here in the BVI, we live with the Godly Principle, ‘where there is life, there is hope! Once there is Hope, we can fight and we must fight for a cure!’
Remember and tell yourself that ‘I AM and I Will … I will be a force to be reckoned with, I will get informed, I will act smarter, I will get screened annually, I will speak up, I will love my body, I will listen and care for my body!
When it comes to your life and that of your family, you must fight against cancer, you must hope every day, you must Pray Until Something Happens… you must PUSH for a Cure. With these few words, I say thank you for having me; and for allowing me to also FIGHT with you in bringing awareness in our HOPE for a Cure. Thank you.