PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Breast cancer is the main cause of cancer deaths among Caribbean females, accounting for 14 percent to 30 percent of cancer deaths. This disease has a significant impact on women’s health and is two times higher in the Caribbean compared to the USA.

“The large number of deaths from breast cancer is very alarming since they are mostly preventable. Breast cancer can be detected early and treated successfully. It can be prevented through education, screening, early detection, accurate diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg, Director, Surveillance Caribbean Public Health Agency, as the agency observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month observed in October, is an annual international health campaign which seeks to increase awareness of the disease.

Breast cancer is a malignant tumour that starts in the cells of the breast and can affect both men and women, but is far more common in women. It’s never too early to take personal responsibility and control of your health. Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start.

Dr. Asin-Oostburg encourages women “to act now to lower your chance of getting cancer. Get tested. Detection of the disease is not a death sentence.” She further stated, “There’s a good chance of recovery if it’s detected in its early stages.”

The exact causes of breast cancer aren’t fully understood. However, there are certain factors known to increase the risk of breast cancer. These include:
• age – the risk increases as you get older
• a family history of breast cancer
• a previous diagnosis of breast cancer
• being overweight or obese
• a previous benign breast lump
• excessive use of alcohol

Adopting healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way toward reducing cancer risks and the associated personal and financial costs. Prevention measures include avoiding use of tobacco, limiting alcohol use, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, keeping a healthy weight, and being physically active.

To understand and assess the burden of cancer, and provide a foundation for cancer control plans and effective public health interventions, it is critical to establish reliable cancer surveillance systems in the Region.

CARPHA is committed to working with its Member States and key partners to reduce the burden of cancer in the Region. Early this year, CARPHA and the International Agency for Cancer research (IARC) launched the IARC Caribbean Cancer Registry Hub. The hub seeks to strengthen cancer surveillance by building capacity for cancer registration in the Region.