Health Ministry advocates early cancer screenings
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
by Glen Simon, Ministry of Health

Consultant Oncologist with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Owen Gabriel, has encouraged women—particularly during breast cancer awareness month—to get screened for breast cancer.

Early detection of cancer provides the best opportunity for effective treatment of the disease, Dr. Gabriel said, adding that mammograms can effectively detect the early signs of breast cancer.

“I am happy with this mammography machine because over the years we have not had access to one in the public sector; and this is now an opportunity for women in Saint Lucia to use this machine for the prevention and control of breast cancer. Cancer is treatable if we diagnose early, so early detection is one of the things that will help us effectively treat and cure someone with breast cancer.”

Screening mammograms have been shown to be useful in reducing the prevalence of breast cancer. Dr. Gabriel advised that although there is a slight degree of discomfort, the tests are safe and necessary.

“We understand that once you are able to do this in a normal frequency as determined by your healthcare provider, there are no harmful effects at all. Some people are concerned about radiation exposure but we know that only unnecessary or excess exposure will lead to problems,” he said. “This mammogram machine is safe and I can guarantee that every woman who uses it once a year or once every two years, that there will be no harmful effects in the long run.”

Dr. Gabriel referenced the downside to not performing regular breast examinations.

“In the very late stages, breast cancers look like tumors and sores on the breasts and at that time it’s harder to cure. Women go through a lot of pain throughout their treatment plan because they’ve not participated in screening and early diagnosis using a mammogram or breast self examination.”

He said women and men should follow three main tips: educate oneself with the right health information; perform regular screenings, particularly if you are at risk for a disease such as cancer; and perform regular breast examinations for increased protection.

The theme for Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018 is “Be a breast friend; Early detection for improved protection.”