Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) — also known as Pink Month — is an annual international health campaign organised by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The Pink Month is a month where efforts to educate those concerned about the disease, including early identification and signs and symptoms associated with breast cancer, take centre stage.
BCAM was founded in October 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society ACS) and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (now part of AstraZeneca, producer of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The primary aim of BCAM from the start has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer since mammography can detect the disease in the earliest stages when treatment is most likely to result in a cure. Some 90 per cent of breast cancers can be cured if the disease is detected early.
Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women and the most common cancer overall. Worldwide, there have been more than 2.26 million new cases annually of breast cancer in women in recent years. Of those cases, some 685,000 patients have died. In Guyana, too, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer. According to the most recent report on the matter from the World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer deaths in Guyana reached 1.34% of total deaths in recent years. The Ministry of Health says that about 150 persons die of breast cancer every year.
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 Guyanese oncologist Dr. Latoya Gooding, many women notice symptoms; but being fearful of a cancer diagnosis, they delay seeking medical attention. The obvious solution is vigilance and, if a problem is observed, the immediate pursuit of medical attention is recommended.
Breast cancer is cancer that develops from breast tissue. As is the case with all cancers, something goes wrong in the cells of the affected tissue causing the cells to multiply uncontrollably. Since men have some breast tissue, men can develop breast cancer. However, this disease is primarily a disease of women, probably, because women have much larger amounts of breast tissue than men.
Signs of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, a newly inverted nipple, or a red or scaly patch of skin. Guyanese, particularly women, should remain vigilant and watch for such symptoms.
Researchers have determined that some persons are at higher risk for the disease than other persons. Risk factors for developing breast cancer include obesity, a lack of physical exercise, alcoholism, hormone replacement therapy during menopause, ionising radiation such as X-Rays, an early age at first menstruation, having children late in life or not at all, older age, and having a prior history of breast cancer, and a family history of breast cancer. It should be noted that a family history of breast cancer is of particular significance because the genes that make the disease more likely have been identified and tests can be done to detect those genes.
Doctors emphasise that while breast cancer is common, early detection is likely to result in a cure. As such, Guyanese women are encouraged to seek more information about the disease.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month — as is the case every year — there will be numerous events to celebrate the lives of persons who have succumbed to the disease, as well as those who are currently battling the illness. Fundraisers and awareness raising events are also planned. Guyanese of all walks of life are encouraged to get involved in the fight against breast cancer.