By FELICITY INGRAHAM
THE RATE of of breast cancer in The Bahamas is so prevalent that experts all over the world are taking a closer look at our country’s statistics. Our precious Bahamian women have been found as some of the most at-risk women in the world for breast cancer, with the appearance of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutated genes within our population.
Of all the Bahamian women who have developed breast cancer, 23 per cent of them had one of these mutated genes, which is the highest percentage in the world.
For those who have experienced the harsh reality of having been diagnosed with breast cancer, proper management from diagnosis to full recovery is vital. These patients, mostly women but sometimes men also, need to be armed with as much information and support as possible to help them get through this most difficult and life-threatening process.
More and more diagnoses are being made at a relatively young age, and the average age of death from the caner in the Bahamas is a shocking 42, while the United States’ average age is 60.
It’s not easy facing such difficult realities, but there are survivors telling their miraculous stories all over this country. It seems Bahamians have a formidable spirit that is not easy to break, even in the face of such adversities. Their fight and exuberance must be met with all the information and support they can get.
Advanced Biomedical Equipment Services, a company which provides a wide range of medical assistance apparatus, accessories and equipment, has presented an entirely new line to its large collection of products - a line dedicated to breast cancer recovery.
A patient may have a masectomy to remove a portion of the breast, or a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous lump. Once any procedure is done, the trauma to the breast and tissues must be carefully managed to ensure that the patient maintains as much of their form as possible in the shoulder, chest and abdomen. The proper recovery garment could mean the difference between good health and posture and a poor quality of life.
For this reason, Anna Maria Roberts of Advanced Biomedical researched for the best recovery garments to add to the company’s product line. A popular product is the compression bra, which looks similar to a sports bra, but is engineered specifically for the patient who has had a procedure done to the breast.
Whether a patient decides to get breast implants or needs to undergo a masectomy, wearing a compression bra is a necessary part of the recovery process. Compression garments are recommended to be worn after surgeries, including breast reconstruction, augmentation or reduction. They apply pressure to the surface of the skin, reducing the volume of the breasts and surrounding tissue, which in turn reduces swelling and bruising after surgery. Also known as post-surgery bras, compression bras facilitate healing, encouraging a favourable outcome from the surgery, while allowing the patient a faster and more comfortable recovery.
Compression bras join a range of new products now offered by Advanced Biomedical, including prosthetic breasts and support straps for implants. The compression bras, created by Amoena, are pocketed, allowing the drainage pouch that will be attached to the patient after the procedure to have its own pocket to sit in. It makes life easier for the patient, and protects the medical apparatus from rupturing or snagging. There are bras for work and for play, including beautiful lingerie styles that allow a woman to still feel well in touch with her feminine side.
“We believe in a holistic approach, being a team approach towards the care of the patient,” said Ms Roberts. “We don’t wish them to be referred to as a patient the whole time they are receiving care. So I call them clients,” she added. She has been focusing on teaching her clients how to utilise the compression garments and other recovery products to ensure that they get the best results after surgery. Her passion has led her to produce a newsletter called “A Piece of the Pie”, which is shared at the Oncology Unit at the hospital. It helps patients understand how to take good care of themselves during the recovery process.
Ms Roberts says what she does is an important “piece of the pie” in ensuring that clients become survivors who are happy, healthy and whole again. She notes that a masectomy is not just physical amputation of the breast, but also emotional amputation. She called on family members and friends of persons going through this traumatising process to always be sensitive to this reality.
She teamed up with professional physical therapist Kitiboni Rolle-Adderley to appear on a talk show recently to provide information to the public on the importance of proper recovery processes.
Mrs Rolle-Adderley pointed to the seriousness of the procedure being done to the patient: “When the breast is removed, an incision is made into the chest wall, or you may have a lumpectomy which takes out just a part of the breast. The lungs, the heart, the pectoralis are all right behind that chest wall.”
With that in mind, she sees it as pertinent that proper therapy is done before and after surgical processes. The muscles in the arm and muscles for posture are all compromised and must be properly examined and exercised to maintain proper posture and function of the anterior chest wall.
“Compression garments are important for preventing and reducing lymphedema, which is an abnormal accumulation of fluid that can occur in a cancer patients’ head, chest and arm after surgery and radiation” she said. “People who experience this need specialised therapy from a therapist who is certified in lyphedema massage.”
Mrs Rolle-Adderley, owner of Handling Your Health Wellness & Rehab, conducts baseline measurements before and after the procedure as well. It is a documented fact that persons who take advantage of proper therapy practices before and after surgery, and utlilise compression garments properly, find that they have better aesthetic results and an improved quality of life.
Patients are also well-equipped with the dos and donts and what to expect, she says, which gives them more confidence going into the procedure. Mrs Rolle-Adderley has been a certified lyphedema therapist for 11 years and has dedicated a significant amount of her time and continued studies, in cancer rehabilitation and more specifically, breast cancer rehabilitation. She is certified in Vodder and Ludec treatment protocol, manual therapy and exercise for cancer management.
Considering that so many of the females learning that they have breast cancer are so young, recovery garments are crucial to ensuring they maintain youthful skin elasticity and proper healing of scar tissue.
• To find out more, contact Anna Maria Roberts at Advanced Biomedical Equipment Services, East Street South at 698-0222 or visit: www.bahamasadvancedbiomed.com. Handling Your Health Wellness & Rehab is located in the Summerwinds Plaza, Tonique Williams-Darling Highway and also on Facebook, or call 322-5496.