By David Yates and Robin Dopoe
The Liberia Cancer Society (LCS) in partnership with the Seventh Day Adventist’s (SDA) Cooper Hospital will on Sunday, October 22, offer free breast screening and consultation to women and men between the ages of 15 and 90.
Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, who is the president of the LCS, said the screening will be done in consultation with the Ministry of Health and will bring together over 50 participants. She hoped that the LCS will carry the screening to as many communities in the country as possible.
Dr. Barnes urged women to get screened for cancer as breast cancer among young women in Liberia remains high. It is estimated that there are over 2,000 new cases of cancer, and approximately 1,600 related deaths each year in Liberia, “and the rate is anticipated to nearly double by 2030,” she added.
Women are particularly affected because of the high rate of cervical cancer which accounts for almost a third of all female cancer deaths, followed by breast cancer, which claims one in five females. Addressing a news conference in Monrovia, Dr. Barnes emphasized the need for more support to fight breast cancer.
“The Liberia Cancer Society and our partners are committed to supporting all efforts to provide early detection, reliable diagnostic screening as well as better quality medical care for cancer patients,” Dr. Barnes said. “We are working with the Ministry of Health to raise money and to bring in donors and supporters that will help us obtain a mammogram machine that is designed to do breast cancer screening.”
She said without any symptom, a woman at a certain age needs to go for baseline screening, and thereafter based on the recommendation from a doctor, she should regularly go for mammogram screenings.
According to her, the screening program will also raise breast cancer awareness and counseling regarding any breast problems that are found, teach women to get a yearly breast exam and to train more healthcare professionals to screen for breast cancer.
“The training will be provided at each screening day for licensed midwives, nurses, nurse’s aides and even physicians who want to gain more skills.
“Men can also get breast cancer, as they have a very small amount of the same tissue in their chests,” said Dr. Barnes.
“We are also asking for volunteers who can help as the program reaches different communities. We need doctors who can help with the screening and training, as well as others who can help set up and educate those coming for screening,” she pleaded.
“Cancer does not have to be a death sentence! Victims of all forms of cancer must not be stigmatized; anyone can be a victim of cancer. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are the keys to overcoming cancer,” she stated.
Dr. Gillian Seton, who is also a cancer expert at the SDA Hospital, emphasized the importance of yearly breast exams, as small knots can be found by a healthcare worker before patients feel the knot themselves.
According to her, cancer is a serious disease that can be treated, adding that the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, better the chance of a cure. Breast cancer starts when cells start to grow out of control and form a tumor or knot, she said, adding that the signs of breast cancer include a hard knot anywhere in the breast, swelling, thickening, or dimpling of the skin (looks like an orange peel), nipple drainage, and nipple retraction.
“Cancer typically does not cause pain, but the pain sometimes occurs around cancer, so it’s important to get examined. We want to help the community by raising awareness of breast cancer, the need for yearly exams, and let everyone know about the treatment options that we have in the country. This is something we can treat, but it’s very important to get treatment as early as possible,” she said.