ACTIVITIES to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) 2019 continue. BCAM was founded and first observed in 1985. BCAM, an international observance from October 1 to 31 each year, was intended primarily to increase awareness of that non-communicable disease, thereby promoting vigilance, as early detection, diagnosis, and treatment significantly increases one’s chances of curing the illness.
As the month comes to a close this year, Guyanese should bear in mind that although the many activities held during the month, including walk-a-thons, workshops, seminars, vigils, and lectures, will come to an end, watchfulness against breast cancer should be a year-round activity, as the common, frequently-fatal disease can strike at any time of the year.
Breast cancer is cancer that develops from breast tissue. Symptoms of the disease include a lump in the breast, dimpling of the skin or other changes in the appearance of the breast area. Breast cancer, left untreated, usually spreads to other areas of the body, and is typically fatal. Fortunately though, if it is found early and treated, it can be completely cured.
Breast cancer can affect both men and women, because everyone has breast tissue. However, because of physiological factors, it is more prevalent in women. In fact, it is the most common cancer in women. According to statistics, some persons are at higher risk of getting breast cancer than others. High-risk factors include obesity, family history of breast cancer, early onset of puberty, and in females, not having children.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), some 1.38 million persons are diagnosed worldwide each year with new cases of the disease. In Guyana, the Ministry of Public Health has reported that about 150 persons die of breast cancer annually.
The ministry reports, too, that 17 per cent of all cancers in Guyana are breast cancers, and 27 per cent of all cancers in Guyanese women begin in the breast. Evidently, this disease is a significant local health problem. Unfortunately, the majority of persons who get breast cancer in Guyana die because they do not detect the disease early enough and seek medical attention. Many times, too, according to officials, women notice the symptoms, but being fearful of the diagnosis, they delay seeking medical attention. The obvious solution is vigilance, and, if a problem is observed, the immediate pursuit of medical attention.
Chief oncologist at the Cancer Institute of Guyana, Dr. Sayan Chakraborty is on record as saying that all types of cancer-related detection and treatment, including diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy, can be done in Guyana. And he emphasises, “Know cancer, no cancer.”
According to the WHO, every person should be aware of changes in their bodies; any change in the feel or appearance of breast tissue should be considered suspect, unless cancer is ruled out by a competent doctor. In Guyana, the treatment of cancer, including breast cancer, is available free of cost. However, before any medical intervention can begin, there must be a diagnosis; and the onus is on all individuals to be self-aware and watchful, and seek medical attention at the first sign of any symptoms of disease, as early detection, rapid action, and immediate medical intervention frequently results in a complete cure.
As Guyana and the rest of the world continue to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2019, we are reminded that breast cancer is the most common cancer in Guyanese women. And, as we remember and pay our respects to the many Guyanese who have succumbed to the disease, and acknowledge too, the many who have survived, let us remain alert, observant, and proactive in the interest of our own health.