EDITORIAL: Breast cancer awareness in focus
AS the month of October gets under way, greater focus will be placed on breast cancer and breast cancer awareness and on how cancers in general have been impacting on the lives of Barbadians.
Indeed, this is the time to disseminate all the knowledge available not only about treatment options, but about prevention, even though we know there are some persons with higher risk factors. This is the time of year to encourage women to get abnormalities in their breasts checked and to have breast screenings done.
Indeed, we want to say thanks to the Barbados Cancer Society, and by extension the Breast Screening Programme, which has been able to save more lives due to earlier detection of breast cancer.
According to Dr. Shirley Hanoman-Jhagroo, Medical Co-ordinator of the Barbados Cancer Society’s (BCS) Breast Screening Programme, “Over the past seventeen years, breast cancer awareness efforts have mobilised people around the community to get involved, resulting in lives being saved by early detection, as evidenced by the majority of positive cases seen at the Breast Screening Programme.”
“Most of our cases over the past five years have been stages 0, 1 and 2. We are hoping that stages 4 and 5 will be a thing of the past,” she stated.
“We now have a protocol that patients can come without appointments, so they can just call and refer themselves. This is mainly for two reasons. We try to encourage breast self-examinations, so they might find something and they want to come right away. Two, with the current situation being how it is, it costs something to go to a doctor, to be examined, pay a fee and then come to us. So we encourage and tell our staff all the time, if a patient wants a mammogram, just let her know the age group, but if for some reason she wants an ultrasound, let her come for the ultrasound, she doesn’t have to be referred,” she further revealed.
She added, “Now this has increased the percentage from 10% in 2006 to 50% in 2018, which is an amazing difference. The average number of persons seen at the clinic today is 700 and it is only to be expected that the more patients attending a screening, the more positive cases you will find and I think this is why the number of our positive cases have risen over the years.”
Indeed, this is what we want to hear, that more lives are being saved due to the programmes on offer.
We know that whilst the focus is on breast cancer, awareness about cancers in general is usually on the rise this month and men are not to be left out. There are too many men being diagnosed with prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and some even develop breast cancer as well. The five most common cancers in men, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are prostate, lung, colorectal, bladder, and melanoma. So we also have to educate our men about their health.
We have to encourage them to get their various health checks, including the dreaded Digital Rectal Exam, since we want both our men and also our women to either remain cancer free or have early detection, so we can better win the fight against cancer.