Awareness on breast cancer vital


THE world is in pink this week for a good reason – to promote awareness on breast cancer.
Breast cancer is something which increasingly demands to be taken more seriously because it has become the second most common cancer in this country.
When one considers the risk factors of breast cancer – and there are many, sadly – there is a key element which one does have – and that is early detection.
Currently there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer. Therefore, 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 it can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option.
Early detection can only come about through awareness and “pink” October is the Breast Cancer Awareness month around the world.
Dr Arnold Waine, an honorary surgeon at the Port Moresby General Hospital, says in his report on breast cancer in PNG that his team sees an average of 40 new patients every Monday morning during our clinical checks.
A quarter of these patients will usually have a breast problem – usually a lump, an ulcer or they come with macerated, large breasts.
Dr Waine is PNG’s leading expert on the liver, pancreas and breast cancer surgery.
Data he recorded over the last five years indicate that 60 per cent of these patients have cancer. This means out of every 10 patients with a breast problem, six will have cancers while the other four have some other infection.
He often asks himself the reason behind the rapid progression. Perhaps there were no proper recording systems in the past or the lifestyles could have changed so drastically over the years.
What is also more alarming is the fact that the younger, fertile age-group of women have breast cancer. Some are urban-dwellers, part of the working-class between 25 and 35.
The youngest breast cancer patient he treated is an 18-year-old from Central.
Events held this month are to help increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment as well as palliative care of this disease.
That is why the world is painted pink this week in observance of this important health objective. There are pink mugs, pink ribbons on football helmets, pink gym socks, shirts and pink decorations.
The pink ribbon is an international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbons, and the colour pink in general, identify the wearer or promoter with the breast cancer brand and express moral support for women with breast cancer.
The goal of the color barrage is straightforward – to remind people that awareness is one of the most potent tools in their arsenal when it comes to combating the second most common cancer.
The World Health Organisation says breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting over 1.5 million women each year, and also causing the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women.
In 2015, 570,000 women died from breast cancer – that is about 15 per cent of all cancer deaths among women.
While breast cancer rates are higher among women in more developed regions, they are increasing in nearly every region the world today.
So to improve breast cancer outcomes and survival, early detection is critical. There are two early detection strategies for breast cancer: early diagnosis and screening.
Women must have their breasts examined by an expert health practitioner, a nurse or doctor. The doctor should be able to refer one early if there is any suspicion or doubt of cancer.
So much effort and funds have been put into organising these cancer awareness events annually which we cannot allow to go to waste.
It will be in the interest of everyone – not only women – to support the important Pink October message and more importantly, do something about it today.

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