NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) on the occasion of Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is recognised every October across the globe and is intended to educate people about the importance of early screening, diagnosis and treatment. For us in St. Kitts and Nevis, it provides an opportunity to focus on this dreaded disease and its impact on those affected in our community.
Breast cancer remains the most common cancer amongst women worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) GLOBOCAN 2012, indicated that there was a sharp increase in breast cancer worldwide.
Data showed that 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed and 522,000 deaths occurred. Here in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, data from the Ministry of Health pathology lab showed 25 new cases in 2019 and seven new cases recorded up until June of this year, with affected individuals ranging in age from their early thirties to late seventies.
Breast cancer is no respecter of persons and can affect both men and women. Although there is no sure way to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk. Many of these are lifestyle-related and include a healthy diet, regular exercise and avoidance of unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking.
The fight against breast cancer therefore starts with healthy lifestyle changes and early detection through screening: breast cancer screening which includes breast self-exam, clinical breast examination and mammography.
If breast cancer is detected and diagnosed early, there is a good chance that it can be cured, thus improving the outcome and survival rate. On the other hand, late breast cancer detection and diagnosis often result in poor prognosis.
What can we do as women? As a woman it is vital that we check our breasts regularly. It is also important to be more familiar with the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and learn what changes to look for. Visit your healthcare provider whether at the health centre, hospital or private office for further screening and diagnosis. Remember early detection saves lives!
The Ministry of Health and Gender Affairs takes this time to commend the efforts of the local breast cancer foundations in the Federation namely Pink Lily Cancer Care, Essence of Hope and Reach for Recovery SKN, whose campaign is to raise funds to help increase the awareness of this dreaded disease and provide support in the way of covering cost of treatment.
As a Ministry, we continue to prioritize cancer prevention and control measures wherever possible. We encourage others to support the cause of these foundations by taking part in their annual fund-raising events. We would also appreciate your support for patients, survivors, and those who have lost their lives. Do this by wearing a pink ribbon or any pink clothing throughout the rest of this month.
Our focus is not only on prevention and early detection, but also to support breast cancer survivors and their families, and most importantly to remember those we have lost.