St. Maarten government to gather valuable data at upcoming Cancer Conference


PHILIPSBURG--Government hopes to gather valuable data during the Cancer Conference at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27.

Local and regional speakers will focus on four types of cancer: breast, cervical, colon and prostate. Government is covering the cost of the conference to the tune of a little over NAf. 45,000.

Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said at a press conference on Monday that over the past year and a half several organizations had been trying to address the issue of cancer in their own way. The conference is a way of synchronizing everyone's efforts. He said this would hopefully synchronise the way to move forward when it comes to cancer in general.
In response to questions about available cancer statistics, Section Head General Public Health Maria Henry said figures are available at several institutions and organisations such as at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), Social and Health Insurance SZV and at family practitioners.

De Weever said the main question to be answered at the conference is how to collectively structure local cancer services and registry. He said figures are available from several sources, but these are not synchronized and government is starting the process of collecting this information. It is important for government to establish the number of cancer patients on the island to be able to build on this, he added. Government is also looking at its Health Management Information System, which will also provide these data.

Shelly Alphonso of the Positive Foundation said the foundation was "extremely excited" about the conference and the information to be gathered from intended speakers. She said the foundation would be inviting the population to get involved. "We are grateful that government has seen the need to bring us together to be able to give this matter the attention that it needs," she said. "And we definitely applaud all the organizations that are involved."

St. Maarten Cancer Foundation Public Relations Officer (PRO) Graciella Zimmerman said cancer is a disease that touches everyone. She said government's initiative in organizing the conference shows the seriousness of the disease.
The conference is being held under the theme "Cancer and aging, collectively improving our local cancer care and responsibility," and is being jointly organised by the Health Ministry's Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

The line-up of regional speakers include Dr. Wassenaar from Aruba; Dr. Igor Gomes and Dr. Carmen Coronel from Curaçao; Dr. Jennifer Alexander from Jamaica and Professor Hassel from Barbados. Local speakers are Dr. Virginia Asin; Nurse Jasmine Cijntje; Hose Booi; Dr. Romney; Lydia Vanterpool and Graciella Zimmerman.

The conference will focus on sharing information on specific cancers with the objective of developing a strategic plan of approach in registering, managing and monitoring cancers; increasing awareness; and new treatments/techniques.
The stakeholders involved in this activity are: Cancer Foundation, Positive Foundation, The Lions, Kelaha Projects, St. Maarten Medical Center, Windward Islands Medical Association, St. Maarten Medical Association, St. Maarten Laboratory Services, SZV Social Insurance Bank, Pharmacies, Insurance Companies, and individuals. The Department of Communications is also providing support.