The country’s premier health institution, the Georgetown Public Hospital
Corporation (GPHC), is looking to embrace a keen health worker/patient collaboration in order to raise needful awareness about breast cancer. At least this was the disclosure of Director of Nursing Services, Sister Audrey Cory, during an interview with this publication recently.
Her comments come at a time when Guyana and the rest of the world are celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed annually in the month of October. Sister Cory in her deliberations recently pointed to the fact that medical practitioners have been able to ascertain that more young women in Guyana are being inflicted with the life-threatening disease. This development is one that is certainly not unique to Guyana.
In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer is considered the leading cancer in women, both in the developed and the developing world. The WHO has underscored, too, that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world due to increased life expectancy, increase in urbanisation, and adoption of western lifestyles.
And in order to help address this glaring challenge, Sister Cory vocalised her conviction that there is need for greater awareness, particularly among young women, within the population. According to her, “this is a good time for women to learn and for nurses to learn too and teach patients.”
Currently, nurses of the GPHC, along with others from other health facilities, are undergoing training to better deal with addressing cancer. The training is being facilitated by medical experts attached to the Organisation for Social and Health Advancement for Guyana (OSHAG), a Non-Governmental Organisation based in New York and also registered here.
“We are utilising this opportunity we have; we are maximising on it so that we can help our own patients here in Guyana,” said an optimistic Sister Cory.
It is expected that the local efforts will help to considerably reduce the prevalence of the disease.
But according to the WHO, although some risk reduction might be achieved with prevention, these strategies cannot eliminate the majority of breast cancers that develop in low- and middle-income countries where breast cancer is diagnosed in very late stages. Therefore, the WHO has said that early detection in order to improve breast cancer outcome and survival remain the cornerstone of breast cancer control.
And the WHO has outlined that early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Currently there are two major components of early detection of cancer: education to promote early diagnosis and screening. It has been amplified, too, that even limited resource settings with weak health systems, where breast cancer incidence is relatively low and the majority of women are diagnosed in late stages, have the option to implement early diagnosis programmes based on awareness of early signs and symptoms and prompt referral to diagnosis and treatment.
It has also been pointed out by the WHO that while population-based cancer screening is a much more complex public health undertaking than early diagnosis, it is usually cost-effective when done in the context of high-standard programmes that target all the population at risk. This is said to be especially effective in a given geographical area with high specific cancer burden, with everyone who takes part being offered the same level of screening, diagnosis and treatment services.
So far the only breast cancer screening method that has proved to be effective is mammography screening, according to the WHO. Mammography screening, though very costly, has been proven to be cost-effective and feasible in countries with good health infrastructure that can afford long-term and organized population-based screening programmes.
But according to the WHO low-cost screening approaches, such as clinical breast examination, could be implemented in limited resource settings when the necessary evidence from ongoing studies becomes available.
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