Basseterre, St. Kitts, November 4th , 2016 (SKNIS): Medical professionals in the Federation, namely, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph Nathaniel France (JNF) General Hospital, Dr. Hazel Laws, Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Retna Walwyn Browne, Director of Community –based Health Services, appeared on the government’s weekly radio and television programme “Working for You” on Wednesday, November 02 to bring awareness to the public on a number of issues related to breast cancer.
Every October, St. Kitts and Nevis joins the rest of the world to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign involving thousands of organizations, in the quest to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the aim is to get as many people as possible involved in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
The chief medical officer gave a brief explanation of breast cancer, noting that it is the term used to describe the “presence of abnormal or tumor cells present in an affected breast”. She explained that it is a common disease worldwide.
“Globally, the incidence of breast cancer varies from about 19.5 per hundred thousand in Eastern Africa to about 89 per hundred thousand in Europe. And in developing countries there is an average incidence rate of about 40 per hundred thousand,” said Dr. Laws, while focusing on incidence in the Caribbean Region. “In territories like Jamaica, they have documented an incidence rate of 43 per hundred thousand women. Now locally, what is happening in our Federation, we have data in our health information unit spanning from about 2010 to 2015. Within this three year period, we have had 102 new cases of breast cancer. On an average we are seeing about 17 new cases of breast cancer each year.”
Dr. Laws said that the 50-59 age range is most often affected followed by the 40-49 age range. Dr. Cameron Wilkinson echoed similar sentiments and commented on a study over a 10 year period from 2000-2011.
“During that 10 year period we had diagnosed 183 new cases. We had about eight cases between the ages of 20-29, 30 cases between the ages of 30-39, 68 cases between the ages of 40-49, 40 cases between the ages of 50-59 and the others were over the age of 60,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “So you can see, although when we start speaking about screening for breast cancer, we tend to have this 40 year period in our mind. We have 38 cases of breast cancer in persons below the age of 40, which means that we have to be self-conscious.”
He added that when he looked at per hundred thousand, St. Kitts and Nevis’ incidence rate was about 68 per hundred thousand, which was less than the incidence rate of Latin America.
In response to the question of breast cancer by race, the medical chief of staff stated that the cancer is more common in whites than blacks, but the death rate is higher in blacks than whites.
“Because when it occurs in blacks it tends to be more aggressive. In blacks too, it tends to occur at a younger age group, so you tend to diagnose it younger, below the age of 40 in blacks as opposed to over the age of 55 in whites,” he said. “And the incidence as it relates to a female is 1 in 8 as compared to 1 in 1000.”
Dr. Retna Walwyn Browne said that breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women compared to other forms of cancers that affect women, especially in developing countries, including the Caribbean region. She encouraged women, and men as well, to visit their doctors and do a checkup once they observe something abnormal in or surrounding the breasts.