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Story Highlights

  • Dr. Ferguson says breast cancer affects families and the society as a whole.
  • The support system for women must include activities geared towards early detection.
  • Drug treatment for one case of breast cancer can cost between $3 million and $4 million.

Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, has urged all Jamaicans to become more active in the fight against breast cancer, as the disease affects not only the women who physically experience the effects, but also families and the society as a whole.

“This involvement must not only rest with the women…knowing (about) it, that is not enough, get involved. It is a duty on the part of men, and the families,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson made the call in a message read by Medical Epidemiologist, Dr. Tamu Davidson on October 24, at the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) and Reach to Recovery’s ‘Keeping Abreast’ luncheon, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

The Health Minister said that the support system for women must include activities geared towards early detection, to prevent the great cost associated with treatment.

He pointed out that drug treatment for one case of breast cancer can cost between $3 million and $4 million. “That can drive comfortable people to poverty, and poor people to hopelessness,” he said.

Dr. Ferguson is therefore urging women to get screened, stating that the principle of early detection must be fully embraced.

He noted that 249 women die each year from breast cancer. “The number is too large to bear when we consider the pain and suffering and the loss of love, not to mention productive capacity,” he stated.

In her remarks, Executive Director of the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS), Yulit Gordon, said that the organisation, and its breast cancer support group, Jamaica Reach to Recovery, are moving urgently to implement strategies to arrest the prevalence of the disease.

She noted that breast cancer affects women in their most productive years; and the emotional and financial burden results in severe hardship for the individual, families and the wider society.

She said that while all relevant research underscores the benefit of early detection, many Jamaican women continue to be diagnosed too late for successful treatment.

Mrs. Gordon said some of the reasons for this include lack of awareness, failure to take action, limited financial support, and the perception that doing a mammogram is extremely painful.

“It is for these reasons why the Jamaica Cancer Society, through an intense public awareness programme, screening, early detection and treatment, has been providing screening to approximately 7,000 women each year,” she informed.

This is done at the Society’s 16 Lady Musgrave Road location, and through its mobile mammography programme. The JCS is now trying to raise US$335,000 to acquire a new mobile unit, to replace the current one.

According to the JCS, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Jamaica, and the leading cause of related death among young women.

The luncheon is the premier activity held each year by the JCS and Jamaica Reach to Recovery, to honour all women, who have survived the disease.

This year’s special guest was five-time World Champion/Three-time Olympic medalist and breast cancer survivor, Novelene Williams Mills.

Contact: Alphea Saunders