Difficulties in Accessing Cancer Care in a Small Island State: A Community-Based Pilot Study of Cancer Survivors in Saint Lucia

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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 29;18(9):4770. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094770.


Developing robust systems for cancer care delivery is essential to reduce the high cancer mortality in small island developing states (SIDS). Indigenous data are scarce, but community-based cancer research can inform care in SIDS where formal research capacity is lacking, and we describe the experiences of cancer survivors in Saint Lucia in accessing health services. Purposive and snowball sampling was used to constitute a sample of survivors for interviews. Subjects were interviewed with a questionnaire regarding socio-demographics, clinical characteristics, health services accessed (physicians, tests, treatment), and personal appraisal of experience. We recruited 50 survivors (13 men, 37 women). Only 52% of first presentations were with general practitioners. The mean turnaround for biopsy results in Saint Lucia was three times longer than overseas (p = 0.0013). Approximately half of survivors commenced treatment more than one month following diagnosis (median of 32 days, IQR 19-86 days), and 56% of survivors traveled out-of-country for treatment. Most survivors (60%) paid for care with family/friends support, followed by savings and medical insurance (38% each). In conclusion, cancer survivors in Saint Lucia are faced with complex circumstances, including access-to-care and health consequences. This study can guide future research, and possibly guide practice improvements in the near term.

PMID:33947123 | PMC:PMC8124473 | DOI:10.3390/ijerph18094770