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Sylvester Hosts IARC and PAHO’s Caribbean Public Health Workshop on Cancer Screening

The event focused on collaborative work to make progress toward cancer health equity.

A photo of Mauricio Maza, M.D., M.P.H.
Mauricio Maza, M.D., M.P.H., regional advisor for cancer prevention and control at the Pan American Health Organization.

Improving awareness, accessibility and impact of lifesaving cancer screening programs in the Caribbean region was the goal of a three-day conference hosted by Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System.

“We are grateful to the University of Miami for hosting this in-person meeting,” said Mauricio Maza, M.D., M.P.H., regional advisor for cancer prevention and control at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). “It gives us an opportunity to understand the challenges facing the region and learn about ways to build your cancer screening programs.”

On May 15-17, cancer and public health leaders from eight Caribbean countries and WHO agencies attended the CanScreen5/CELAC train-the-trainers conference in Miami organized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization.

The initiative, from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), is part of IARC’s global project, Cancer Screening in Five Continents (CanScreen5).

A photo of Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H.

“This important conference demonstrates the University of Miami’s continued commitment to working collaboratively with WHO to achieve our shared goal of cancer health equity,” said Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., vice provost for research and scholarship, associate director of population sciences and cancer disparity at Sylvester and the John K. and Judy H. Schulte Senior Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

Challenges and Opportunities in Cancer Screening

After Dr. Kobetz welcomed attendees, Partha Basu, M.D., Ph.D., head of IARC’s Early Detection, Prevention and Infections Branch, outlined both the challenges and opportunities facing cancer screening programs in the region.

“Two years ago, we began working with representatives of the ministries of health of Caribbean countries to map their cancer screening activities,” he said. “Now we are working with them on how to address barriers at different steps of the screening pathway and guide them along the process of developing an action plan.”

Outlining the IARC’s CanScreen5 initiative to collect and share screening data, Dr. Basu said, “We want to find solutions to the barriers people face when trying to access cancer screening services in different countries.” He added that the steps in preparing an action plan begin with setting objectives and gathering data. “Then we should assess the resources and budget needed to implement the plan, understand and reach out to the stakeholders,” he said.

Effective cancer screening also requires a policy framework for governance, evidence-based protocols and ongoing monitoring and evaluation, said Isabel Mosquera, Ph.D., IARC scientist. “You also need training for service providers, as well as equipment and supplies so individuals in the target population can access these services,” she said.

A photo of Nensy Bandhoe, executive director of the Lobi Foundation in Suriname
Nensy Bandhoe, executive director of the Lobi Foundation in Suriname.

Nensy Bandhoe, executive director of the Lobi Foundation in Suriname, said that screening programs need to reach people from different ethnic groups with varying languages and cultures. Dr. Maza agreed, adding that interventions should be tailored to specific populations, such as providing self-sampling kits for cervical cancer screening for women in rural regions.

Cherie Tulloch, M.D., chairperson of Antigua and Barbuda’s Cervical Cancer Task Force, noted the importance of studying the population not being screened, as well as participating individuals, to identify barriers to care.

Reflecting on the importance of the train-the-trainer conference, Dr. Maza said that well-planned cancer screening programs, when properly implemented, can make an impact in helping individuals, families and communities.

“By setting clear goals and implementing programs with effective guidelines, we will save lives and reduce the incidence and burden of this disease.”

Tags: cancer screening, CELAC, Dr. Erin Kobetz, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Pan American Health Organization, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, WHO