The Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) has called for the creation of national guidelines to govern patient-physician relationships that would see doctors taking a leading role in cancer prevention by initiating conversation about the disease.

“Whenever someone visits a family physician for whatever illness, it could be the common cold, a dialogue needs to take place around the importance of routine checks like mammograms, Pap smears, prostate checks, and other important screening activities,” said Yulit Gordon, executive director of the JCS. She made the proposal yesterday during a Gleaner Editors’ Forum in observance of Cancer Awareness Month.

Dr Venslow Greaves, radiation oncologist at the Kingston Public Hospital, said that in the public health system, time is a major constraint. “I think we all try. I work at a hospital, where I see large numbers of patients. You cannot spend an inordinate length of time on this matter. You have to deal with the problem that the patient has,” he told the forum.

Dr Tracy McFarlane, social and health psychologist, argued that an initial doctor’s visit is a hurdle for some Jamaicans, adding that compliance with treatment often hinges not only on cost and access, but on psychosocial factors.

“It’s the patient-practitioner relationship. It’s the who of the client – basic things like gender issues, rural versus urban issues. These fall into our attitudes, our beliefs about our own health, and common sense notions of illnesses,” McFarlane explained.

The University of the West Indies lecturer contended that intervention would have to navigate psychological barriers. She suggested, “We have to look at how we can get people to increase their perception that this is beneficial, doing something now (because) it will pay off in the long run and that we can even have generational benefits from this one probably difficult choice that I have to make at this point.”

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