- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Jamaica Cancer Society will be intensifying its efforts to increase the level of awareness among women about the disease.
- Mammography Unit Manager/Outreach Co-ordinator at the Society, Yvonne Watson tells JIS News that the month's activities will be observed under the theme: 'Early detection equals longer life - Please tell a friend'.
- She says promoting the theme is critical, as breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican women, and second only to lung cancer worldwide.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Jamaica Cancer Society will be intensifying its efforts to increase the level of awareness among women about the disease.
Mammography Unit Manager/Outreach Co-ordinator at the Society, Yvonne Watson tells JIS News that the month’s activities will be observed under the theme: ‘Early detection equals longer life – Please tell a friend’.
She says promoting the theme is critical, as breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Jamaican women, and second only to lung cancer worldwide.
“You cannot prevent breast cancer, the fact that you are a woman and you have breasts makes you susceptible to having breast cancer. So what we preach is that early detection is the best defence against breast cancer and it is the best chance of having a cure, because breast cancer detected in the earlier stages offers you a 90 per cent cure rate in most cases,” she points out.
As such, she informs JIS News that the Cancer Society will embark on an all out drive, aimed at promoting the importance of early detection and the importance of mammography as a detection tool for breast cancer.The Unit Manager explains that in the early detection of breast cancer, mammography, which is an X-ray of the breast using specialized equipment, will show what was “happening in the breast at the particular time”.
Depending on the results of the X-ray, follow-up action in the form of an ultra sound or a biopsy to confirm the stage of the disease can be recommended by the doctor. The results of the biopsy, she says, can also determine the treatment to be prescribed for the woman, if cancer is diagnosed.
New international guidelines recommend that women begin doing mammograms at age 40. In situations where there is a family history of breast cancer, persons are advised to start screening 10 years earlier than the youngest family member was diagnosed. For example, if someone was diagnosed at 35, then the individual should begin screening at age 25 even though the recommended time to start is age 40.
For persons who are not yet 40, but are experiencing symptoms, such as bloody nipple discharge, lumps in the breast or some other very obvious abnormalities in the breast, consultation with a doctor is necessary.
The month for the Society kicked off with a Church Service on Sunday, September 26. On October 7, persons are invited for an evening of Pilates, a popular breathing exercise, while on Saturday, October 9 at 6:00 a.m., there will be the Dr. Denise Thwaites 5 k memorial walk/run at the National Stadium in Kingston.
October 11 and 12 will present cancer survivors in Kingston with an opportunity to get a new lease on life with a “rejuvenate yourself Avon makeover” from Avon’s New York representatives who will be in the island for this purpose. Individuals who have lost hair after undergoing chemotherapy will get an opportunity to get braids or an appropriate wig, in addition to facials, manicures, pedicures and body scrubs. On October 14, the Avon survivors makeover goes to Mandeville.
Come October 15, which is celebrated as ‘World Mammography Day’, working hours at the Society’s 12 mammography facilities islandwide will be extended to allow women over 40 years to avail themselves of the services. A mammogram test for this day will be offered at a discounted rate of $1,850, with special prizes and giveaways for selected participants. Other activities for the day include a KLAS FM outside broadcast from the Society’s Lady Musgrave Road address in Kingston.
The Society encourages women who are over 40 years, who have never done a mammogram or have not done so since this year, to visit any of its facilities in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Mandeville and St. James.
“No one has an excuse for not having a mammogram done on Friday, October 15. We believe that the fight against breast cancer can’t be emphasized enough and we’ll continue to promote this until they find a cure,” the Unit Manager said.
October 21 will mark the culmination of the Society’s web chat, hosted by the Gleaner online, which will focus on the theme: ‘Cancer and the Family’.
The Society’s stellar event for the month will be its ‘Keeping Abreast’ luncheon on October 28 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel at 12:30 p.m. Proceeds from the tickets, which are $2,000 each, will be used to aid breast cancer research and to assist with the work of the Jamaica Cancer Society.
This will be followed by a tin drive on October 30, beginning at Tropical Plaza in Half-Way-Tree, Kingston, to raise funds.
The curtain comes down for the month with a breast cancer symposium on Sunday, October 31 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Members of the public are invited.
The Jamaica Cancer Society tends to some 4,500 clients per year. Its efforts are complemented by its mobile mammography service, which began in 2000 and serves rural areas, the school community and workplaces, on demand.
Miss Watson notes that to date, some 1,162 clients have been served by the mobile unit, a number which is expected to increase, as “October tends to be the month when most persons do mammograms”.
She is appealing to all women to do regular self-breast examinations, pointing out that the absence of a family history of breast cancer or the absence of the risk factors associated with breast cancer, such as never having had a child, having your first child after age 30, early menstruation (before age 12), late menopause (after age 55) and obesity, does not exempt one from being affected by the disease.
At the same time, she notes that having the risk factors does not mean the individual will end up with breast cancer, but this elevates the chances of getting the disease. “Your only protection is to be vigilant. Early detection equals longer life,” she emphasizes.