Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in women around the globe while hundreds of women in Guyana had lost their lives simply because they were not screened in time.
This is according to Dr. Mujahid Ghazi of the Cancer Institute of Guyana who was at the time addressing over 800 students as well as teachers at the Berbice High School assembly last week.
Stressing the importance of timely screenings with mammograms and ultrasound, he told the gathering that according to the American Cancer Society, women over 40 must be screened every year.
Dr. Ghazi who also spoke about cervical and prostate cancers said that women should start self-examination after 20 years of age. Women over 30 should have a clinical examination by a trained health professional every three years.
The talk was organized by two fifth form students, Priya Arjune, who introduced the guest speaker, and Shameeza Somwar as part of their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.
They had also helped to raise close to $30,000 to help a deserving breast cancer patient. According to Dr. Ghazi, “Cancer does not see colour, caste or creed and can hit anyone anytime anywhere.”
He surprised the boys in the assembly by telling them that breast cancer is not only a disease of females but males can also get it. Speaking about the risk factors, he said 10 to 15% of the invasive breast cancers have a genetic cause, explaining that: “If one family member has breast cancer the chances for others are twice compared to the general population and if two of them have breast cancer the chances of having breast cancer is threefold.”
The use of birth control pills, hormone therapy and heavy smoking are also considered risk factors for invasive breast cancer. He asked the students to become warriors in the fight against breast cancer by spreading the knowledge and creating awareness in their communities, starting from their own homes.
Dr. Ghazi, who has been involved in Cancer Awareness Campaigns in Guyana for the past seven years, said that at the Cancer Institute the majority of the patients come in the advanced stages when not much can be done about it.
As a humanitarian and social scientist, he deduced that most of these patients are poor and try to avoid going to the hospitals and doctors because they could not afford the expensive tests and medications.
He said too that “the rich get all the facilities here and abroad but poor dies just due to ignorance and lack of financial resources.”
For that reason, with the help of his friends in the US, he is trying to build a cancer hospital in Guyana, which will not only serve the poor population of Guyana but also help the ailing from other Caribbean countries.
He commended the Ministry of Health’s efforts of raising awareness by organizing health fairs and seminars and public service announcements in the print and electronic media.
Berbice High School is almost 100 years old.