Remarks for the Minister of Health and Seniors
The Hon. Jeanne Atherden, CA, CPA, JP, MP
Radiation Therapy Facility Ribbon Cutting
on Wednesday, 17 May, 2017 at 3:00 pm
BCH, Point Finger Road
This is a great day for Bermuda. From today, the travel time for life-altering radiation therapy can be measured in minutes on a familiar road rather than hours in airports and airplanes.
Travel can be difficult at the best of times, but even more when you are ill, or weakened. I congratulate the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre team on this new radiation facility….it’s a tremendous achievement.
May I take a moment to thank the many people—ranging from those with large corporate donations to those with small piggy banks—who have given funds toward this very worthy new facility.
Cancer is a real problem in all developed countries and Bermuda is no different. Cancer mortality in Bermuda is generally comparable to the OECD averages, however, there are some areas where we do better, like breast cancer, and some where we do less well, like prostate cancer. There are many factors contributing to this but, the important thing to remember is that prevention, early intervention and treatment are all essential in reducing Bermuda’s cancer mortality.
In 2015, our latest figures available, cancer accounted for 128 deaths or 26% of all deaths in Bermuda. That’s 28% [61 deaths] for females and 25% [67 deaths] for males.
Of all cancer deaths, the leading causes were lung cancers (20%), colorectal cancers (13%), and pancreatic cancer (8%).
Among males, the leading causes were lung cancers (27%), prostate cancers (15%), colorectal cancers (7%) and liver cancers (6%).
Among females, the leading causes were colorectal cancers (20%), lung cancers (11%), pancreatic cancers (11%), breast cancers (11%) and cervical cancer (7%).
Behind those numbers, the Ministry of Health and Seniors is acutely aware of the toll this disease takes on families and our society. Those statistics are really about individuals who are or would be missed by family and friends.
And what about the new cases? In 2015 there were 344 new cancer diagnoses (149 among females and 195 among males). The most common primary cancer sites for new diagnoses included skin (24%), prostate (16%), breast (14%), colorectal (8%), and lung (7%).
For females, the most common primary cancer sites for new diagnoses included breast (32%), skin (23%), and colorectal (7%). For males, the most common primary cancer sites for new diagnoses included prostate (29%), skin (25%), colorectal (10%), lung (9%) and bladder (5%).
The good news is that modern modalities have improved the chances of survival, and Bermuda Cancer and Health now has a resident radiation oncologist, Dr. Chris Fosker. Patients can now remain on the island and receive the same standard of treatment at considerably less expense and disruption. Radiation can also alleviate pain, which is important for comfort. I understand that radiation service will be offered free of charge for those unable to pay.
When it comes to cost, as Health and Seniors Minister, I need to think of the overall cost to the healthcare system as well. It must be said that having radiation treatment available here in Bermuda is expected to reduce expenses for all concerned and, most importantly, for patients. This drop in overall costs to treat patients overseas will hopefully have the effect of decreasing insurance premiums.
I also want to thank the dedicated Bermuda Cancer and Health team, who endured the joys of construction and I am sure are happy to be back in a dust and noise free environment.
In closing, it is my hope, and it must be one we all share, that in the years to come we’ll reduce cancer deaths and incidences. It is always the Ministry’s goal that we have more and more healthy people in healthy communities.