By LEANDRA ROLLE
WITH high rates of breast cancer in the country, a local surgeon is urging Bahamian women to get routine mammograms.
In support of breast cancer awareness month, Cleveland Clinic, Florida, hosted its first symposium on Wednesday to address the high prevalence of breast cancer in The Bahamas.
Held at Baha Mar, the event included presentations from a number of leading health professionals, who also spoke on breast cancer preventative measures and breast cancer advances and research.
One of the speakers, Dr Locksley Munroe, said: "People often ask me the question why breast cancer is so pronounced in Bahamian women in the Bahamas…the truth of the matter is about 20 percent of any particular disease is congenital, another 20 percent is related to environmental factors and in between there, that 60 or 70 percent is a combination of both.
"In The Bahamas, we have genetics, we have our environment and then it's our cultural part, I think, that plays a significant part in the development of breast cancer in this country and I don't know the answer, but, of course, there's the hypothesis."
According to data released by the World Health Organisation earlier this year, there were 933 new cases of cancer in 2018, The Nassau Guardian reported.
Of this figure, there were 200 new cases of prostate cancer, 60 cases of colorectum cancer and 25 cases of lung cancer recorded among men.
There were 166 new cases of breast cancer, 55 cases of colorectum cancer and 39 cases of corpus uteri among women.
The WHO data also found that 482 people died of cancer in The Bahamas last year with the leading killers being prostate cancer, with 80 deaths, and breast cancer with 77 deaths.
But despite high rates of breast cancer in the country, Dr Munroe noted that such cases do not have to yield negative outcomes.
"Twice a day, women (usually) look at their body. Why is it that (women) don't make a move at what they're looking at? During breast cancer (awareness) month, those gambling houses offer mammograms for free. I think seriously that we need to take advantage of it…," he said.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands, who was also in attendance at the event, spoke about the importance of early detection for breast cancer.
"Breast cancer in The Bahamas is not the same as it is elsewhere. We have already established that…We recognise that public awareness and education are paramount in this fight. We realise that the government cannot do it alone," he added.
It is for this reason, Dr Sands said, why forming partnerships with NGOs and organisations like the Cleveland Clinic are important in tackling the issue.
"Such alliances can boost the spotlight given to the prevention of breast cancer and emphasise the importance of early detection of this disease. Regardless of the therapeutic advances to treat late stage cancer, survival remains most favourable when you have early detection," he continued.
Another fundamental part in the fight against breast cancer, Dr Sands said, is the importance of research.
"(While) we still believe that prevention is better than cure, there is a need to establish a more robust machinery for local breast cancer research…. such access will permit Bahamian researchers to improve our outcomes and to answer thought provoking questions such as why do so many women have breast cancer in the Bahamas," he said.
"Our data collection efforts must inform the way we develop policies and with the assistance of the national cancer registry, data sources will be enhanced and advanced…While we are proud of the strides The Bahamas has made in the field of cancer research, screening, diagnosis and treatment, much more remains to be done."
In 2017, Dr Sands told the House of Assembly that women in The Bahamas have the highest incidents of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes "which is 800 per cent higher than the world average." These genes increase a woman's chances of getting cancer.