By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
A local registered nurse needs the public’s help in providing 100 free mammograms to women in need.
Catherine Theresias, who has 15 years of nursing experience under her belt, has launched an initiative to raise $6,000 for the mammograms. She has partnered with several local imaging facilities, including Fourth Terrace Diagnostic Centre on Collins Avenue, the Walk-in Clinic, and the Cancer Centre of the Bahamas.
Nurse Theresias is passionate about the health of women and is calling on members of the public to make monetary donations of any amount to these facilities.
According to the the American Cancer Society, women are recommended to start having mammograms between ages 40 and 44. Currently, Nurse Theresias said there are no official breast cancer screening guidelines for Bahamian women, however, mammograms should be done earlier, especially for women with a strong family history of breast cancer.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women globally. It is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the Bahamas. The average age of breast cancer diagnosis among women is 42 years. In the United States, the average age of diagnosis is 62 years. Bahamian women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages (stage 3 or 4). The Bahamas has the highest prevalence of BRAC1 and BRAC2 gene mutation in the world. About one out of every four women diagnosed with breast cancer was found to have BRAC gene mutations. This genetic mutation significantly increases the risk of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer,” she said.
So the odds are stacked high against Bahamian women with regards to breast cancer, Nurse Theresias told Tribune Health.
“I understand that many women are pensive about having mammograms. Some are crippled by the fear of finding out, ‘What if I have breast cancer?’ However, I have seen extraordinary advancements in breast cancer treatments over the years. I have witnessed patients diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 breast cancer respond favourably to treatments. There is hope. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Women must have regular mammograms to have a fighting chance. You can’t fight what you don’t know.”
Nurse Theresias has an extensive experience in field of oncology, having been a chemotherapy nurse for 10 years. She was employed as the nurse manager for a private oncology clinic where she had responsibilities for the Nassau, Freeport and Cayman clinics.
During that time she was also a research nurse for seven years and participated in Phase 3 randomised clinical trials for chemotherapy investigational drugs. Presently, she is the proprietor of Nightingale Nursing Services, specialising in intravenous infusions (IV drip) and care and management of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
“My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago. It was detected at an early stage because he had regular check-ups. He underwent treatment and he is alive today. This is why I was driven to launch this initiative. I understand the gravity of a cancer diagnosis and I can attest that early detection can save lives,” she said.
Nurse Theresias said there are many myths about mammograms that have stopped women from getting screened. One major misconception is that mammograms are painful.
“If done near or during your monthly cycle you will feel discomfort because breasts are sensitive,” she said.
Other misconceptions include the idea that a mammogram (essentially an X-ray of the breast) takes too long, when in fact it’s less than 10 minutes.
“I need a doctor’s order for a mammogram” is another idea that is not always true. “If you are 35 or older you can get a mammogram done without it. You will need to give name of your doctor so a report can be sent to him/her,” said Nurse Theresias