Westmoreland Medical Officer urges cancer screening and mosquito breeding prevention

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World Cancer Day sign. Image courtesy of Satheesh Sankaran.
A mosquito. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Dr Michelle Sterling-Mills, medical officer of health in Westmoreland, is encouraging members of the public to screen for cancer to facilitate early detection. “Cancers remain a significant cause of ill health and death and are now affecting younger persons. Persons with cancer have worse outcomes if they get COVID-19, so extra precautions are needed,” she said, while addressing the monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, in Savanna-la-Mar, on 9 February. “Let us support those affected by this disease and encourage all to do age-appropriate screening for cancers. Pap smears, digital rectal exams, breast examinations and testing of faeces can detect problems at an early stage. Let us all join the fight against cancer,” Dr Sterling-Mills added. She noted that the top three cancers causing death on the island are breast, cervix and colon in females, and prostate, lung and colon in males.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) cancer is a large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs. The latter process is called metastasizing and is a major cause of death. Neoplasm and malignant tumor are other common names for cancer.

Turning to other matters, Sterling-Mills reminded citizens to store water safely to prevent the creation of mosquito breeding sites. “Everyone needs to remember [to destroy] mosquito breeding sites at least once per week and avoid mosquito bites,” she said.

For his part, chief public health inspector for Westmoreland, Steve Morris, outlined that the parish’s aedes index continues to hover around the five per cent mark. He credited vector-control workers for the low mark and noted that the four-month temporary vector-control programme, which was slated to end this month, has been extended to the end of June this year. Some 35 temporary workers are now participating in the programme in the parish.

Morris also indicated that the health department is looking to increase the cadre of 10 permanent vector-control workers. “We know that vector control cannot be an ad hoc situation; it must be consistent, and so we are looking at increasing our permanent staff. We have noticed that when we have the 35 temporary workers our aedes index is in the region we want it to be. So, we are looking at increasing our numbers to about 35 to 40 in the parish, permanently employed,” he outlined.

The aedes index refers to the percentage of premises or homes in a limited, well-defined space, where actual breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found and the total number of houses examined in that area.

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