Survival rate shock for kids cancers

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.

By Morgan Adderley

Tribune Staff Reporter


THE Bahamas faces a massive uphill battle to improve survival rates for children with cancer and other auto-immune diseases.

Complicating the problem is the fact that 87 percent of the Princess Margaret Hospital’s children’s wards have been closed since Hurricane Matthew in 2016 — forcing patients to wait in the accident and emergency department for days for a bed in its only operational paediatric ward.

Compared with children in the US and Canada, Bahamian children – and those in other Caribbean countries – could be as much as 50 percent more likely to die from cancers which children in developed countries survive.

Health Minister Duane Sands yesterday conceded the Bahamas has “much to do” in improving survival rates, noting it is only now that the country is gathering robust data on the issue.

In 2013, University of Toronto Professor of Paediatrics Dr Upton Allen launched an initiative to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and blood disorders in Caribbean children.

Known as the Caribbean-SickKids Paediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Project, the programme focuses on six countries in the region — including the Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica. Dr Allen serves as co-chair of the project.

“If a child is born with leukaemia in Canada, it is believed they have between an 80 to 90 percent chance of surviving the disease,” Dr Allen told Global News Canada in an interview leading up to the project’s launch.

“If that same child is born in Kingston, Jamaica, they have about a 50 percent survival rate. And if that child is diagnosed in any of the other Caribbean countries, they have less than a 50 per cent chance of surviving the disease.”

Dr Allen has declined to speak to The Tribune to discuss his findings.

While Dr Sands did not provide an exact figure regarding the survival rate for children with cancer in the Bahamas, he told The Tribune yesterday the issue of child cancer survival rates here had many aspects.

“We have only one paediatric haematologist/oncologist and serious infrastructural challenges to optimal paediatric cancer care especially the management of leukaemias,” he said.

“Many of these are treated collaboratively with other institutions. While there is yeoman’s efforts... we have much to do.

“... Delays in diagnosis; availability of diagnostic and therapeutic options, especially newer and more expensive modalities; cultural reluctance to certain treatments and access challenges”.

Noting the fact that the SickKids project was launched in 2013, Dr Sands was asked if he thinks any strides have been made in improving cancer survival rates in the last few years.

“Not really,” he replied.

However, he noted there is a discrepancy between public and private patient outcomes — “a problem that is an embarrassing national reality”, he said.

“The Sanigest report confirms mortality rates for public patients are significantly higher than private patients across almost all diagnoses,” Dr Sands added.

Furthermore, according to the SickKids Project website, these diseases are often fatal because of this shortage of health-care professionals and resources.

This means that some children across the region are not diagnosed until it is too late to save them. Additionally, those who are diagnosed when the disease is still in the early stages often have difficulty accessing the treatment they need.

When asked if this is the case for the Bahamas, Dr Sands noted it is “probably true”.

However, he added although it is yet to be finalized, the Bahamas is crafting a relationship with Johns Hopkins University hospital and as this developed patient treatment and survival rates should improve.

Furthermore, a cancer registry “to get robust data on cancer incidences and outcomes” was established last month.

“The registry is up and running. It is in the Marcus Cooper building on Village Road. It is staffed, it has been a long time coming but it is actually running,” Dr Sands said.


tell_it_like_it_is 5 years, 1 month ago

This man talks and talks and talks! But does NOTHING! Sands is possibly the worst Minister in that cabinet.
Geez Minnis, you really couldn't do any better than him? Really?


joeblow 5 years, 1 month ago

My sentiments exactly! He keeps telling us what we already know, that the healthcare system in this country is an abysmal failure DESPITE spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually!


ohdrap4 5 years, 1 month ago

true he cannot even finalize the breadbasket list. i suspect the list cannot be finalized because, price controlled or vat free organic almond milk would not be affordable anyway.


Twocent 5 years, 1 month ago

His track record as being untrustworthy is catching him up. I no longer accept his interpretation of medicine. Our whole system of health care needs an overhaul, particularly since many of our illnesses are preventable, including most cancers.


shonkai 5 years, 1 month ago

So how many children's beds in that wonderful new wing at PMH? And how many admin desks?


Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 1 month ago

What do you expect from Sands, a heart surgeon, who will look you right in the face and tell you: "Sorry, but unless you have the $30,000 to pay my fee, I can't do that heart surgery you so desperately need to continue living." LMAO


alfalfa 5 years, 1 month ago

And the National Health Insurance is going to work? B/S. You will die waiting on service at Accident and Emergency.


DDK 5 years, 1 month ago

"Complicating the problem is the fact that 87 percent of the Princess Margaret Hospital’s children’s wards have been closed since Hurricane Matthew in 2016 — forcing patients to wait in the accident and emergency department for days for a bed in its only operational paediatric ward." AND YET Cabinet and their chosen hangers-on continue their globe-trotting and wastage of Public funds at not only an unabated, but at an alarmingly increasing rate, with NO REGARD for the electorate. The parents of the children with no hospital beds should DEMAND these spendthrifts produce an accounting of their expenses with one week of their occurrence.


TheMadHatter 5 years, 1 month ago

These fellas cant fix AC in the hospital and that sittin outside, so best they try keep quiet about these high minded things.


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