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Specialist: Breast cancer detected too late in T&T
Stage four breast cancer makes up 12 per cent of diagnoses in T&T. Dr Rajen Rampaul said this means that they have a lower chance of survival as the cancer can spread to other parts of the body and affect areas such as the bones, brain, lungs or liver. That is why Dr Rampaul is insisting that there must be early and accurate detection of breast cancer.
Rampaul made the disclosure at the opening of the multimillion dollar state-of-the-art Pink Hibiscus Breast Health Specialists. The centre, the first for T&T and the Caribbean, which opened its doors on November 22 at Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook, is a partnership with Guardian Life of the Caribbean. It was born out of the need to improve women’s health and wellness.
Breast health is a specialised field that demands specialist technology and medical care by doctors and nurses whose sole focus is ensuring that breast care meets international standards. Rampaul, an oncologist and oncoplastic and reconstructive breast surgeon, was quick to point out, however, that while breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in T&T, it is not a death sentence. But he pointed out, “It is critical that it is detected early and accurately.”
Rampaul explained that women have a one in eight lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. Women over 40 must be screened annually since health care providers have been detecting cancers late, Rampaul said, which is a problem. Over the last five years, Rampaul, a member of the British Association of Breast Surgery and the European Association of Mastology, said stage four breast cancer in T&T makes up 12 per cent of diagnoses.
In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, the figure is two per cent. This means the figure in T&T is “six times more” and that diagnosis was too late, Rampaul said. Rampaul gave his take on the state of breast cancer detection in the country in the presence of CEO of Guardian Holdings Ltd CEO Jeffery Mack, the centre’s chairman Gervase Warner, CEO Lorraine Kam and guests.
New breast centre to contribute towards downward trend in cancer death
Mack, in addressing guests, said the idea of the centre was born several months ago after he took a copy of the centre’s business plan home to peruse. While going through the first couple of pages, Mack said, he had reservations about the project. However, after reading the business plan he saw a lot of relevance to Guardian Life, which provides insurance to thousands of people.
“So the idea of providing financial capital and human capital to support a facility like this will help.” Even though the death rate from cancers have been declining since 1990 through screening and detection, Mack said the centre will contribute to this downward trend. Mack said Kam promised to make the centre profitable after its first year. Warner described the centre as a next generation of digital technology.
Kam promises painless mammograms at Pink Hibiscus Breast Specialists
Kam said the centre offers a range of screening and diagnostic testing through a team of professionals in a one-stop shop. In addition to screening and diagnostic expertise, the centre has collaborations for surgical oncology, reconstructive surgery and treatment planning.
A 30-minute screening test is $1,000 which involves a painless mammogram, ultrasound and an option of a clinical examination by a female nurse. Guardian Life members would be charged a discounted fee of $650. Depending on the findings, Kam said, the patient may require a needle test called a biopsy to determine whether the problem is a cancerous tissue.
If after the screening the patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, Kam said a consultation is provided. “You can either stay here or go to the St James Centre.” So far the centre has performed 35 mammograms with the help of its eight staff members. Giving details of the centre, Kam said its equipment and software, the majority of which was sourced from the United States, cost millions. Their biggest challenge was getting it to our shores.
Kam said while they have not looked at health tourism, this was one area they can explore. Trinidad was chosen, Kam said, because “we always try to push the envelope in terms of health care.” Not only will the centre cater for the needs of local women, but regional as well, she said. Kam said the centre has been set up so there is a natural flow of patients. So far women from Guyana have expressed an interest in visiting the centre for screening, Kam revealed.
Risk factors for breast cancer
• Being over 40
• Having cancer in the other breast
• Family history of the disease
• Taking hormone replacement therapy
• Starting your period late
• Stopping your period late
• Not having children or delaying them until you’re in your 30s or 40s
• The contraceptive pill causes a small increase in risk, but after you stop taking the pill, the risk gradually returns to normal