Be a Breast Friend, Early De­tec­tion for your Pro­tec­tion

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HEALTH -

The Min­istry of Health and Well­ness held a me­dia launch on Oc­to­ber 4, 2018 in recog­ni­tion of Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month in Saint Lu­cia.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) forty-one mil­lion per­sons die each year from non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases (NCDs), which is equiv­a­lent to sev­enty per cent of all deaths world­wide. Can­cers ac­count for nine mil­lion of th­ese deaths.

NCDs in­clude stroke, heart at­tack, di­a­betes, can­cer and hy­per­ten­sion, also re­ferred to as the silent killer. They aren’t trans­fer­able from per­son to per­son but are, in great part, due to life­style choices.

Dur­ing the month of Oc­to­ber the is­sue of breast can­cer aware­ness, ed­u­ca­tion and preven­tion will be high­lighted. Dur­ing the me­dia launch for Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month, Fam­ily Life Ed­u­ca­tor with the Min­istry of Health and Well­ness, Janelle Alexan­der-Dupre, stressed the im­por­tance of breast self­ex­am­i­na­tions to spot early changes in one’s body.

She said, “And this year we have de­cided to tar­get women in their pro­duc­tive years, women be­tween the ages of 25 – 50 years, but not for­get­ting also younger women be­cause they too can get breast can­cer, and the ear­lier we get ac­cus­tomed to our bod­ies, our breast, the bet­ter the chances of sur­vival.”

The theme for this year’s ob­ser­vance is “Be a breast friend, early de­tec­tion for your pro­tec­tion”. Ac­cord­ing to Fam­ily Nurse Prac­ti­tioner Sharon Tench-Nor­bal, early de­tec­tion of breast can­cer will re­duce mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity and screen­ing ser­vices are avail­able at all pub­lic health­care fa­cil­i­ties on-is­land.

“Breast can­cer screen­ing is per­formed to de­tect any changes in the struc­ture of the breast, such as breast lumps, any breast pain, dis­com­fort, dim­pling, dis­charge or any ab­nor­mal­ity in the sur­round­ing lymph nodes. All women are en­cour­aged to visit the health cen­tre in their com­mu­nity to get their breast ex­am­ined by the nurse. At the health cen­tre they will also be taught how to ex­am­ine their breast. They will re­ceive in­for­ma­tion as to re­fer­rals,” said Tench-Nor­bal.

NCDs con­tribute sig­nif­i­cantly to losses in pro­duc­tiv­ity, in­creased eco­nomic bur­den to in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and the na­tion. Ag. Na­tional Epi­demi­ol­o­gist Dr. Michelle Fran­cois said can­cer is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death with breast and cer­vi­cal can­cers be­ing re­spon­si­ble for most can­cer-re­lated deaths among Caribbean women.

She said, “In Saint Lu­cia, can­cers, heart dis­ease, stroke, di­a­betes and hy­per­ten­sion re­spec­tively are our top five killers be­tween 2013 and 2015, all of them be­ing non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases. Th­ese top five causes of death ac­counted for over half of the to­tal deaths in 2014. Can­cer alone ac­counted for twenty per cent of all the deaths in both 2014 and 2015. In 2015 we had stroke, prostate can­cer and di­a­betes be­ing the lead­ing causes of death in our men and a sim­i­lar trend was no­ticed in the women, with stroke, di­a­betes and breast can­cer be­ing the main cause of death.”

Fran­cois con­tin­ued, “The lead­ing site of can­cer death in Saint Lu­cia is the breast. Breast can­cer is ranked as the num­ber one cause of can­cer deaths among women in Saint Lu­cia from since 2006, and the trend shows that the num­bers con­tinue to in­crease.”

Dr. Fran­cois added that stud­ies show the risk of breast can­cer in­creases with age and most cases are di­ag­nosed be­yond the age of 50. How­ever, cases have been recorded with women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. She said many of the can­cers are pre­ventable through mod­i­fi­ca­tion of one’s life­style such as de­creas­ing al­co­hol con­sump­tion, stop­ping smok­ing, reg­u­lar screen­ing, early de­tec­tion and ef­fec­tive treat­ment. She en­cour­aged all women to get their breast ex­am­i­na­tion done, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the ob­ser­vance of Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month.

This Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month fo­cus on sup­port­ing those you know who have the dis­ease.

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