By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
IN AN effort to raise awareness of breast health and the importance of early detection, several organisations have teamed up to provide the screening for at-risk women on Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island and Exuma.
The free breast screening programme is a partnership between One Eleuthera Foundation, Cancer Society of The Bahamas, Cancer Society of Eleuthera (CSE) and Rotary Club of Eleuthera and is expected to launch early next year.
It will provide mammography and ultrasound screening. CSE is leading the programme and screenings will take place weekly at their Wellness Centre in Palmetto Point.
One Eleuthera Foundation has worked closely with CSE since its inception in 2012. Based on information gathered by CSE and research by Dr Judith Hurley, from the Breast Cancer Unit of University of Miami, it became evident that Bahamian women needed the help of the organisation, Gacintha Gordon, development officer, told Tribune Health.
“Research by Dr Hurley reveals that 24 per cent of Bahamian women have mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes, putting them at a higher risk for the disease. This percentage is greater than the world’s highest reported rate of breast cancer, which was recorded in women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent at 11 per cent. Further, Hurley’s research indicates that nearly 45 per cent of Bahamian women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at are stage three or four, compared to only about 12 per cent of female breast cancer patients in the United States,” she said.
This prompted the organisation to develop a Breast Cancer Outreach Programme to raise awareness of breast health. It has been funded by Susan G Komen over the past three years.
In 2014, a study completed by Emory University’s Global Health Institute in collaboration with CSE, One Eleuthera Foundation and Rotary Club of Eleuthera indicated that there were 3,000 women on the island who were at recommended screening age. Currently there is no mammogram or ultrasound screening available on Eleuthera.
“This is difficult on an island where unemployment is high as 70 per cent in some areas, according a 2005 EDAW report. Sixty-nine percent of the women surveyed indicated that they could only afford up to $100 for a mammogram or ultrasound,” she said.
“This is a major barrier for women who cannot afford to travel to New Providence. This data highlighted the need for mammogram and ultrasound services on the island of Eleuthera to help decrease the high rate of Bahamian women being diagnosed with late stage breast cancer which would increase their chances of survival. A programme we developed, Eleuthera Imaging Program, has been building partnerships and fundraising to make mammogram and ultrasound services possible on Eleuthera,” Ms Gordon said.
Mammography and ultrasound facilities will be placed in the Palmetto Point Wellness Centre on Eleuthera. Over $230,000 has been raised to support the programme to date. Additionally, USNORTHCOM (which co-ordinates US homeland defence), has donated a mammogram machine to the Eleuthera Imaging Programme through the United States Embassy in Nassau. This gift will be facilitated by the government, which is also providing an administrator and technician for the screening facility.
The foundation is also working with local and international Rotary Clubs, as well as other partners, to finance the ultrasound component of the project and to expand breast cancer education and outreach. Ms Gordon encourages women to take part in the screening programme because it has the potential to save a person’s life.
One Eleuthera Foundation is a Bahamian non-profit organisation committed to sustainable development on Eleuthera. Its role is to find the resources needed to effect positive change in education, health, culture, heritage, the economy and the environment.
For more information on the breast cancer screening initiative contact 242-332-1804.