The month of October every year is internationally celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness month, also known as Pinktober.
This week, the National Referral Hospital’s (NRH) Oncology (cancer) Unit under the Internal Medicine Department, that manages and treat cancer patients, launched the Pinktober celebration together with celebrations to mark the units’ 4th Anniversary. This was carried out by both the staff of Oncology unit, patients and cancer survivors.
The event was marked by speeches, followed by testimonies of cancer survivors, food and dances.
In his presentation as part of raising awareness around breast cancer, Senior Registrar In charge of Oncology Department, Dr Andrew Soma highlighted that based on available data, the cancer incidence and trend in Solomon Islands shows steady increase since 2010.
“Though we are still working on the figures for 2018 to 2022 the trend over the past decade have shown steady increase in cancer incidence that we have recorded, with cervical cancer topping the list, followed by breast cancer”,
“The number of Chemotherapy sessions from 2019 to 2021 saw an increase from 321 in 2019 to 727 in 2021. This increase is reflective of the increase in the number of cancer patients that we are treating and providing palliative care for”, explained Dr Soma.
Dr. Soma said that like all other cancers, early detection of breast cancer increases the survival chances of the patients. “Work is ongoing to bring in a Mammogram machine that can detect breast cancer at its early stage and once we have it set up at NRH we would be able to provide timely treatment. For now, we have medical procedures that the Oncology centre can carry out to detect for breast cancer though not as effective as a mammogram machine”.
“Thus women or girls can come to get themselves checked should they feel a lump in their breast or underarm, thickening or swelling of part of the breast, irritation or dimpling of breast skin, pulling or pain in the nipple area.”, highlighted Dr Soma.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Coordinator Mrs. Nevalyn Laesango explained that similar to diabetes, hypertension etc. cancer is also an NCD which means it is also a lifestyle disease.
“Changing lifestyles by eating healthy food with enough daily exercises including a stop to unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol can greatly help in preventing the formation of cancer in our bodies. Therefore, it is important that we all start to change from our unhealthy lifestyles”, said Mrs Laesango.
NRH Medical Superintendent, Dr Janella Solomon in her remarks thanked the Oncology unit for their continuous dedication and commitment to serving cancer patients over the years despite the many challenges.
“We take note of the challenges and limitation especially the need for mammogram machine for early detection of breast cancer, human resources, logistics etc. and the NRH Management is working closely with the Ministry of Health and partners to address these”, assured Dr Solomon.
Former Miss Solomon Islands, cancer advocate and NRH pharmacist Ms Gladys Habu also delivered brief remarks where she acknowledged the wonderful work doctors and nurses at the Cancer centre are providing for their patients and expressed admiration for many cancer patients whom have shown positivity amidst their challenging conditions and all the emotions that comes along with it.
She also thanked the government, private sector firms and various organizations whom have contributed towards the establishment and improvement of the cancer centre over the years.
“One thing is certain. There are a lot of individuals, organizations and private firms who would like to also help and thus it is important that we continue to build and maintain genuine relationships”,
“During my reign as Miss Solomon Islands I led the work with our cancer unit team to establish the NRH cancer Trust Fund along with the support of Bank South Pacific. Many individuals, organizations and private firms showed their willingness to provide support financially or by item donation, and had it delivered in a timely manner”,
“Dr Andrew Soma, senior registrar of Oncology and myself are happy to be contact persons for this Trust Fund Account should there be willingness and interest to provide financial support towards our cancer centre”, stated Ms Habu.
Breast Cancer survivors and patients were also given opportunities to share their testimonies where they also seize the moment to thank the NRH doctors and nurses for their care and friendship.
“When I first came to the cancer centre I was so nervous, afraid and under great stress. But as soon as I met the staff there I felt so loved, cared for and all these mixed emotions disappeared. So thank you Dr Andrew Soma and your team for going beyond simply discharging your duties to creating our own special family of cancer patients and survivor, truly a home outside of our homes”, said one of the patients.