Early detection saved our lives – breast cancer survivors

Two members of the Periwinkle Cancer Survivors Group have said the importance of early detection in saving persons from cancer cannot be overstated as they shared moving stories about their triumph over the deadly disease.

Advisor to the Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy.

Speaking during an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), Nandranie Singh said it was her awareness that saved her life.

Singh is a breast cancer survivor for the past fifteen years since she was diagnosed in 2007.

“In my case, I had this experience years ago, I saw a young lady on the television and I was looking at her, what she came out with, and when I felt the lump, I had a brochure that tell me how to do the breast self-examination and from that brochure, this is how I am here today,” she said.

Nandranie Singh-Cancer Survivor

After her diagnosis, she had a mastectomy and chemotherapy. She is still on medication and does follow-up clinical visits.

If there was someone in your family that had breast cancer, you start doing it earlier (self-examination), than when they had been diagnosed,” Singh said.

She advises anyone battling cancer to be constant with their clinics and take their medication and follow the right diet.

“The general public should not put a stigma to cancer and say I cannot have it…we all need support from each individual, whether it be in your family or a club, you need that support, that helps you to be motivated,” Singh said.

Mitchell Smith-Cancer Survivor

Meanwhile, another cancer survivor Mitchell Smith noted that self-examination helped her detect that she had cancer in her breast at an early stage.

“I did my self-examination and I realised I had a lump in my breast…and immediately I checked the doctor and immediately I took the step further from there and that’s why I’m here today, so the screening has a lot to do with it,” she told DPI.

She noted the importance of support from family, friends, and clubs such as the Periwinkle group, which supports survivors financially and through counselling and other services.

“There is life after cancer because I am a survivor and I’m full of life and I have seen a lot of cancer survivors and they are there and they are living and they are happy.  So, all I want to say to you, have support from like your relatives, friends, join a lot of support systems” Smith said.

Women accessing services at the Health Fair.

Advisor to the Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy,  reiterated Thursday, that early detection remains key to increasing the number of cancer survivors in Guyana.

And while cancer remains a challenge here and around the world, survival rate is increasing.

“We also have the good news part, which is, in our country, there is a growing number of breast cancer survivors. When I first joined the ministry of health the mortality rate from breast cancer and other cancers was higher than the global average mortality rate. Guyana was one of those countries where it was a death sentence to have cancer,” he said.

The advisor said Guyana has the tools to prevent and manage breast cancer, but people must be aware. 

“Because if we improve early detection in our country, we will keep increasing the survival rate from breast cancer and if we have that as a concrete real thing, then not doing it is unacceptable and criminal,” Dr Ramsammy said, noting that no one is too young to learn about breast cancer.

Breast cancer is not a woman’s issue. It’s all of our issues because men have breasts too…and not for a minute must we think that men cannot have breast cancer.”

He explained that Guyana now has more sophisticated diagnostic tools and is now developing a regime of biochemical and biogenetic tests along with the expansion of mammography services.

The health advisor also noted the importance of getting the HPV vaccines to prevent cancer.

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