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May 21, 2015

Annual Cancer Care Symposium Held in Belize

During the month of May, the Belize Cancer Society annually holds events to bring attention to cancer. The society and its partners held the annual cancer care symposium in Belize City today. Local and international presenters spoke on cancer prevention, control, initiatives, programs and other cancer related topics. Andrea Polanco reports:


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This year’s Cancer Symposium brought together partners and professionals to discuss cancer coping strategies with a focus on families and children. At the helm is the Belize Cancer Society:


Heather Reneau, Senior Administrator, Belize Cancer Society

Heather Reneau

“They will be speaking about the issue of cervical cancer, the HPV Virus, Family and cancer overall survivorship. They will be assisting families in learning about coping strategies, what to do when dealing with cancer, the diagnosis, after treatment. So, when we come together, as professionals and individuals, we come together to learn. We come to get the information from the professionals that practice these, you know the researchers that practice these in the lab. So, we look forward to events like these so that we can discuss with each other and understand more what is happening in our country”


And part of the information sharing is also about discussing the capability of our health system:


Dr. Ramon Figueroa

Dr. Ramon Figueroa, Director of Policy & Planning Unit, MOH

“If you’re asking about the ability to diagnose, if we get it at an early stage we can diagnose pathological lesions and then we can do something about it. We can do a lot of preventive actions, for example, if we can introduce the HPV Vaccine, it has been proven that that goes a long way in preventing Cervical Cancer. So, we have the wherewithal, there is a lot of things that we can do.”



And addressing cervical cancer is one of those things; after all it is a disease that is treatable and preventable:



02:06 Cervical cancer is one of those cancers that is a big taboo. People have a lot of stigma and discrimination surrounded by cervical cancer. One of the initiatives of his conference is to make people and regular individuals alike more aware of really what cervical cancer is. The main causes, the main treatments, new and developing terms that we can use and address the issue of cervical cancer. But we have stigma and discrimination attached to it where people think they know where your cancer came from and that’s not true. 02:43

Heather Reneau

“We are presently doing free pap smear campaigns to at risk women in Belize. So, our symposium is our educational aspect of the project that we are running and we have seen women coming out and having been checked for the presence of the HPV. They come out and access the pap smear, the access the information and they actually take back the information to share with their children, especially if they have daughters and also with their families.”



But, Figueroa says that there are other services for cancer patients that are not available in Belize:


Dr. Ramon Figueroa

“For example, Dr Grant was saying, if we diagnose patients at a certain stage especially for breast cancers and cervical cancers and prostrate cancers. They may need radiation treatment and we don’t have that facility in the country and we may not be able to afford to have that facility in the country for many reasons. It is not only because we don’t probably have the financial resources, but there is also the issue of the amount of power generated to run a radiation center, so for us it is probably easier for us to establish agreements with our neighboring countries; Guatemala, Merida, we have offers. We have people and centers that are offering to accept our people. We just need to go through the whole bureaucratic process of negotiating and accessing resources and so on.”


And partnerships are critical. Many Belizean children must seek medical attention abroad, as Reneau explains:


Heather Reneau, Senior Administrator

“In Belize, we are seeing a lot of lymphomas and leukemia. So we are seeing a lot of our children affected by cancers but we don’t know the root causes of these cancers. That is one of the levels that the Cancer Society hopes to be raised to. Having research capacities that we can bring in researchers in the country so we can research these diseases so that we can know exactly where they’re coming. Today we are blessed to have Dr Pablo Gonzalez with us; he treats our children when they go over to Merida. He is giving us a synopsis of what they go through in Merida. We might know how to assist them when they are back home; assist them with counseling and little family support and try to advocate for cheaper rates for them. But what happens when they are in a strange country accessing treatment, he takes them as his own and when they are over there he makes sure they get housing and try to assist so that the fees are not that high. So, it not just Belizeans that form a part of this cancer network, it’s also international partners”


Andrea Polanco repotting for News Five.


The Belize Cancer Society hopes to establish a Cancer Registry which will be able to provide a comprehensive depiction on the number of people with cancers.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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