The cancer society of Belize held its annual symposium today. It is an event held each year in the effort to highlight cancer prevention, care and treatment as well as bringing awareness to the various forms of cancer and their causes. Love News attended a portion of the symposium and had the opportunity to speak with the President of the Belize Cancer Society, Laura Tucker-Longsworth.


“Today is our annually cancer care symposium; the Belize Cancer Society has for a number of years now make this a highlight of our cancer awareness month where we target health professionals; we bring them together along with people interesting in the community to review and look at different topics that’s really important in terms of providing services not necessary cancer care services but health care services to those persons who may become impacted by cancer. What we are particularly looking at is how do we engage our health professionals in adopting a different way of health care delivery services that we do not end up with missed opportunities; when somebody enters the door, enter a primary health care setting like Cleopatra White, a clinic in Orange walk or Dangriga, public facility where they treat that person as a whole person. When last have you been screened; whether it’s for a fever or cold; when last have you been screened? Do you have a family history of cancer? How are you doing with your diet and so on and that’s the purpose. We want to really stimulate discussion and interests in really getting all of us engaged in not only wellness check but also in early detection screening.”

Today’s symposium was held with a focus on improving men’s health and survivorship through global strategies for the prevention, early detection and control of cancer. According to Longsworth, they are trying to reach out particularly to men since a number of males do not go in for their regular checkups.


“The improving in men’s health has absolutely to do with the fact that men do not come into our system for health care; only women do and there are a number of services in the public sector that’s free of cost that are underutilized by the entire society but particularly men. The global strategy has to do with using the best information and guidelines to really advise our patients about choices and health services and screening tests that they need. The survivorship has to do with how well we can do, because in the event that we have cancer, what do you do about surviving? If you’re surviving, if you have cancer you are always a survivor because the cancer can come back but we want to be aware of those issues that we, as health professionals can do; those issues that affect survivorship and one is early detection because too often men appear in our system with late cancers and at that point we can do very little for them but even at that stage our health professionals must use the best pain medicine to make sure that person at the end of life has good pain management to ease them and make them comfortable as they approach death. So, that’s the purpose of looking at not only global strategy but also at what we can do to help those persons who are affected by cancer, survive with a good level, a certain quality of life that makes them comfortable.”

As part of today’s launch of the symposium, Government Minister Michael Finnegan addressed the audience. As a cancer survivor, Finnegan gave Love News some advice to pass on particularly to Belizean men.


“First of all what we need to do first as a citizen or human being is to look after yourself and your body. You come first; no government or no medical intuition I think have to tell anybody to tell anybody to take care of one self. So, that is first of all what I think and when you do that and look after your health, the rest will follow. I think we have come a long way but remember that most people get involved and want to be cured when the cancer is done upon them and long upon them; you need to being to screen your body, screen yourself and then by screening yourself you go to the doctor and once your cancer is caught in an early stage, your surviving or living a longer life will be very good but most of us take too long and when we do go to the doctor, the cancer has been there for a long, long time and the doctor is not magician they can’t do nothing when it is at that stage but if it is detected early it can save one life. Men have to be more involved; they have to take stock of one’s health and get involved, get tested, go take your test; let the doctor screen you; do your digital test, do your blood test, do what is needed so that you can live a long life because everyone wants to live a long life. I am not afraid of dying because death is inevitable but one would want to live as long as one can live and that is why we go to the doctor, that is why we look after our health and that is why we take treatment because we want to feel good and live as long as we can.”

Originally from Belize, Dr. Milton Arthurs who currently practices gastroenterology in Jamaica served as this year’s keynote speaker. Longsworth says that Dr. Arthurs was key in creating the framework for the Belize Cancer Society.


“Doctor Milton Arthurs is a Belizean who is a gastroenterologist and so, he is on center stage this morning and then will be joined by his counterpart in Belize, Dr Gabourel who is also a gastroenterologist who will give us his experience on working with colon cancers as we know it by, this afternoon but Dr Arthurs came in and he set the stage he created the frame work for us to look at what are those strategies and the strategies that he outlined are the ones that we adopted at the cancer society. What measures are there for us to do prevention and what are those risk factors that all of us need to address and he looked also at the factor of heredity issues, health assessment history, knowing your history and so on. And then he also looked at early detection; what is available and what can we do and he presented it and that is a must for all of us as health care providers. We have to look at those factors that we can do something about and also for those who do have cancer what kind of environment can we create for them to make them comfortable and another important aspect of cancer care that he described was even when you have cancer what do we as health professionals advising the patient because they have to keep checking because cancer can come back.”

Today’s event was the result of collaborative efforts among the Belize Cancer Society, the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, Australian Direct Aid Project, The Belize Cancer Center Dangriga and The Ministry of Health.