Breast cancer is a killer that can be stopped. Every October we are reminded of this, as the Grenada Cancer Society (GCS) joins forces with other community groups and businesses to elevate awareness about prevention as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Today, the GCS is providing free breast screening at the Bruce Street Mall in Saint George’s for 25 pre-registered women. Tomorrow, the St Andrew’s Development Organisation (SADO) is providing the same opportunity at the Grenville Car Park. The screening services are made possible through the Republic Bank donation of a Mobile Cancer Screening Unit to the GCS in 2019.
Deputy Chair of the GCS Rev Osbert James said the screenings, which are done by a medical doctor, had to be limited to 25 to ensure COVID-19 protocols are respected. Rev James, who has been involved with the Society for many years, is a trained health care chaplain and has counselled terminal patients. A cancer patient too, Rev James is in remission.
As the GCS endeavours to share important information about breast and other cancers, “it is a big competition” as many people “are just closing their minds off” with so much focus on health care as a result of COVID-19, GCS president Dr Sonia Nixon told The Grenadian Voice on Wednesday.
Sharing information and teaching women how to self-examine their breasts are part of the services of the Mobile Cancer Screening Unit and Dr Nixon said the Society plans to take the unit into villages to reach more women directly.
The Society identifies breast cancer as the primary cause of cancer death among Grenadian women. “Despite access to care and significant medical and diagnostic advancement, our women are presenting late for diagnosis. It is well documented that early diagnosis saves lives, whereas advanced disease hardly offers the possibility of a five-year survival. Worse, the costs involved are phenomenal, cause severe financial problems for the women and their families, while advanced disease is often a traumatic experience especially in cases where younger children are living in the household,” according to a GCS statement.
Beyond the screening services taking place today and tomorrow, SADO has embarked on new initiatives to educate citizens about what the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies “as the most recognised cancer among women worldwide” in both developed and developing countries. The coronavirus pandemic may have caused the cancellation of the annual organised walk to mark the month; however, SADO has been busy collaborating with businesses to educate the public about the importance of early detection. SADO, together with The Pink Ribbon Society and TOP FM 102.3 and 103.7, introduces the ‘Breast Cancer Saturday Sweepstakes’ tomorrow.
Minister of Social Development, Housing and Community Empowerment Hon Delma Thomas, who is responsible for Hospital and Community Services in the Ministry of Health and Social Security, noted that cancer is the leading cause of death in Grenada. Speaking at Tuesday’s post Cabinet press briefing, Minister Thomas said “we ought to look at an aggressive education program” because a lot of cancers, including breast cancer, can be prevented.
The WHO estimates the disease affects 2.1 million every year and causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. “In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women,” according to the WHO. As there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, early detection “remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option,” the WHO advises.
The GCS reports that scientific research has identified women who are most likely to develop breast cancer as follows:
- Between the ages of 45 to 55. This does not indicate that younger or older women are exempted from developing disease
- Have not had children nor breast fed
- From families where there is a history of breast cancer especially if her sisters, her mother and the mother’s sisters have been affected
- Who smoke tobacco
- Who have been using hormone replacement therapy
- Who are obese
- With inactive lifestyles
- Who consume a lot of alcohol, especially younger women.
- Excessive sun exposure
- Who are exposed to some chemical and radiation, adding that
- Men may also be victims of breast cancer