EDITORIAL - Take proactive approach to health care

For the entire month of October, the focus in Barbados is being placed on breast cancer awareness.

There are a number of events staged throughout the month aimed at educating the public about the disease, as well as encouraging individuals to get screened for breast cancer. There has also been a major fund-raising drive in the form of the Walk for the Cure, hosted by CIBC FirstCaribbean and the Barbados Cancer Society Breast Screening Programme, which saw a tremendous turnout.

These, along with various talks, workshops and visits by the Breast Screening Mobile Unit, are a sure sign that breast cancer is being taken seriously in this country and suggests that the numbers for late detection should decrease since education and screening are such a priority.

This proactive stance is even more important since it appears more women under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with the disease, which is the most common cause of death from cancer among Barbadian women.

According to Medical Coordinator of the Breast Screening Programme of the Barbados Cancer Society, Dr. Shirley Hanoman-Jhagroo, although breast cancer is considered a post-menopausal disease, “We are finding women in their 40s and 30s and we have had a few in their 20s, we’ve even had an 18-year old a few years ago”. This has led to a drive to target female students enrolled in secondary schools, in order to teach them how to perform breast self-examinations.

Though not approved yet by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Hanoman-Jhagroo believes that by teaching them the importance of doing self examinations as teenagers, they will take this knowledge into adulthood, which would go a long way in ensuring early diagnosis of breast cancer.

It is a fact that knowledge is power. And as a country that boasts of a high level of education, it is hoped that this initiative is successful and that youngsters – both male and female – would be empowered with the knowledge about their health and physical development that would afford them the ability to make educated, wise decisions and act to ultimately ensure themselves and their loved ones a longer life span.

Gone are the days when certain topics are considered taboo. In many cases youngsters are getting (mis)information on their own from incorrect sources on the Internet. Why not introduce the topic of breast screening as part of health education and foster a culture of health awareness that could be adopted in other areas like the effort to reduce Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs)?

Imagine the relief on our bogged down health care sector if children are trained from teenage years to take responsibility for their health and bodies and to reduce the risk of contracting certain preventable diseases.

In that light, it is hoped that all Barbadians of all ages continue this heightened awareness even after October 31st, and that everyone takes a moment to perform a breast self-exam and encourage a loved one to do so as well.

A few minutes may afford you many more years of memories.

Barbados Advocate

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