Wed | Apr 14, 2021

Get screened for colorectal cancer

Published:Wednesday | March 10, 2021 | 12:16 AM

March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, through its Non-Communicable Diseases and Injury Prevention Unit, has plans in place to raise public awareness around the prevention and control of this disease.

Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaica for men and women. The public education programme began with a signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the ministry and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The collaboration will see RADA providing agriproducts as gifts to support all the various initiatives the ministry will be activating to inspire Jamaicans to include more fibre-rich, natural foods in their diet.

The MOU was signed by Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton and Peter Thompson, CEO of RADA. “Although age, genetics, family history and other medical conditions, like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, may increase one’s risk, we can control the many other major risk factors. One such is the impact of our lifestyle choices. Our diet, for a start, is an area over which we have control to make our own decisions,” Tufton said.

Given such a confirmation that one’s diet plays a significant role in cancer prevention and control, and, more specifically, that colorectal cancer occurs more frequently with diets low in fruits, vegetables, vegetable protein, and fibre, Dr Nicola Skyers, acting director of the, Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, said, “Given the fact that our diet is so important to the fight against cancer, the public education drive we have embarked on will stress that meals containing overcooked or burnt meat or fish increases the risk.

“People who eat fried, well-cooked red meat more than once per week have twice the risk of colorectal cancer compared to those who eat lightly cooked red meat less frequently. Conversely, diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon or rectal cancer,” Skyers said.

Since February 4, in commemorating World Cancer Day, the ministry has been partnering with medical labs and radiology entities across the island to intentionally push screening as a means of cancer prevention and control. The ministry’s thrust has been about appealing to Jamaicans to get informed, know their risk profile to this disease and get screened, as early detection of cancers like colon cancer will significantly improve health outcomes for patients and ultimately save lives.

The collaboration with RADA is in furtherance of the ministry’s objective to have Jamaicans become more conscious and informed about their digestive health.

“RADA was chosen as the perfect partners in the push for healthy eating. RADA has been a vanguard of not only healthy eating, but as the strident voice for ‘eating what we grow and growing what we eat’,” Skyers said.

“RADA has long appreciated the notion that more fruits, vegetables and ground provisions should be consumed as contributors to great health, and we are happy to be collaborating with the ministry in highlighting the correlation between a colon-friendly diet and lowering the risk of colorectal cancer,” according to Thompson.

“The health ministry is encouraging all Jamaicans to participate in all the exciting initiatives during the month, and share what they are doing with them. Learn as much as you can, encourage your friends to join in on all the fun you are going to have and most of all, enjoy your baskets of healthy foods, compliments of RADA,” Tufton said.