In the two years that the Cayman Islands Cancer Registry has been in existence, only 107 people have registered - less than a quarter of those that the latest census listed as having the disease.
Cancer Registrar Milena Conolly says she had hoped more people would have registered their details on the register, but acknowledged that there appeared to be a reluctance on the part of many cancer survivors to be registered.
According to the 2010 census, 425 people in Cayman stated on the census forms that they had cancer.
The Cancer Registry was launched in 2010 as a joint project between the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Health Services Authority.
Conolly urges people to come forward as their information is vital to help garner a better understanding about cancer and its impact on the populace of Cayman.
Data is only released in an aggregated format and the names of the people who have registered would not be released at any stage, says Ms Conolly, addressing concerns about confidentiality.
“The registry is not to pry into people’s lives or rehash their experience, but to gain basic information which answer these questions and it is a one-off. It takes just six minutes to fill out a form and that’s it,” she says.
It takes a minimum of five years for enough useful information to be gathered in a cancer registry database, though the slow-up take among people in Cayman to register may mean that it will take even longer here.
“It may end up being longer than that here due to the reluctance of people to come forward to give information. Unless we have people registering and giving us information, we cannot meet the target of five years,” says Conolly.
People have been resisting volunteering their information and being registered for a variety of reasons.
“Sometimes people don’t know that the registry is here or what it is about,” said Ms Conolly, adding that an education campaign on the Cancer Registry is planned for later this year.
“Sometimes people are reluctant to be reminded that they had or have cancer. Others have concerns about confidentiality. They don’t want anyone to know they have cancer... because it might affect their career or that it’s simply their own personal private business,” Conolly explains.
A stigma about cancer remains in the local community, Conolly said, with some families not wanting others to know that someone in their family has cancer because it is associated with “bad” behaviour, like drinking or smoking and people are afraid others will say that they have cancer because of their bad habits.
To add to the anonymity that people can have when they register, Conolly points out that people can submit their forms via email or she will even visit a person’s doctor to pick up the form if the individual does not want to be seen entering her office.
The forms are available at private physicians’ offices and on the websites of the Health Services Authority, the Cancer Society and the Breast Cancer Foundation.
The office of the Cayman Islands Cancer Registry is located on the second floor of the Health Services Authority Administration building.
As well as those who have survived cancer or are currently suffering from the disease, the Cancer Registry is also collecting details of people who have died from the disease, even many years ago.
Data is recorded using the World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer registration system following standards set by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.