BREAST cancer is a very curable disease.
But many deaths from this disease are the result of women not reporting symptoms early, or refusing surgery.
CWMH consultant general surgeon Dr Josese Turagava called on women in Fiji to take a more proactive stance towards breast cancer.
"Any lumps that women feel in their breast, especially at a time when they are not pregnant, they should come in at once," Dr Turagava said.
He said the hospital records about one or two new cases of breast cancer a week, and added that from 2001-2006, the mortality rate was 63 per cent.
This is compared with mortality rates of abount 90 per cent overseas.
"The problem in Fiji is that patients usually come in around stage three or stage four, the final stages of the disease."
Perhaps more concerning in Fiji is that many women who are made aware of the cancer refuse surgery, opting for traditional medicines.
"In 2012, there were 217 new breast cancer cases. Out of these, only around 50 had mastectomies, and the others refused to be followed up."
He urged community leaders to encourage their members to be proactive, saying that cancer is curable in this day and age, especially when detected early.
"Every female should get a mammogram at age 40, and those with a family history of cancer should be screened five years earlier."
Dr Turagava said younger women should also be on the lookout for symptoms, with the youngest case this year being a 22-year-old woman.