Objective: Cancer screening is one approach that can reduce morbidity and mortality through early detection of pre-cancers; however anxiety, fear, and lack of information are important barriers to universal cancer screening in the Caribbean. Nevis is a small island located in the Eastern Caribbean. We report available data on screening prevalence and cancer mortality for four common cancers: cervical, breast, colon and prostate.
Methods: Demographic information, screening utilization (when available) and cancer mortality statistics were obtained from the Charlestown Health Clinic and the annual reports from the Ministry of Health. Moreover, physicians and key stakeholders were interviewed to assess current guidelines for cancer screening as well as to indicate areas of need.
Results: Cervical cancer screening is under-utilized in Nevis. Between 2001 and 2007, the overall prevalence of Pap testing fluctuated minutely (mean: 6.87%, range: 6.06 – 7.41%). Systematic screening for breast, colon, and prostate cancer is not routinely performed, thus utilization rates are not available. Cancer mortality varied slightly between 2002 and 2006; prostate cancer had the highest overall crude mortality rate (30.6 deaths/100 000 persons). Physician interviews revealed that adherence to US and European cancer screening guidelines are inappropriate for their population of patients. Breast and prostate cancers are frequently diagnosed in these geographic areas before the age when cancer screening is currently recommended.
Conclusion: Cancer is perceived as an important health problem by physicians, key stakeholders and citizens, however cancer screening is under-utilized in Nevis. Future research should focus on generating screening guidelines that are relevant for this population, as well as methods to promote screening.