Editorial comment – Fighting breast cancer

The revelation that the youngest breast cancer victim died at the age of 17 last year will be a concern.

This was revealed by the head of surgery department at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH), Dr Josese Turagava, at the Pinktober Cancer Symposium at the Fiji National University (FNU) Pasifika Campus in Suva yesterday.

Dr Turagava said about 20 cases were under 28 years old and about six under 21 years old with the most aggressive form of cancer presented during pregnancy.

Most of the cases last year were initially on herbal medicine before opting for hospital treatment.

A problem faced initially, he said, was that iTaukei people opted for traditional medicine over hospital treatments.

Some people also refused chemotherapy and surgery and many came in at a very late stage in the past five years with almost all lumps bigger than five centimetre, he said.

There was one in eight chances for a female to get breast cancer in their lifetime.

He said breast cancer was curable in the early stages and now they could tailor make treatments for each patient.

Breast cancer was the number one killer among women in the country.

Breast cancer, said Fiji Cancer Society board member Makrava Wilson last year in October, begins in the breast tissue and is the second most common type of cancer, mainly affecting women. He did not hold back on the frightening details either, pointing out that the prognosis for stage 4 breast cancer is not good.

The five-year survival rate, he said, was only 16 per cent.

There are many triggers of cancer like lifestyle habits, eating habits and so on, she pointed out.

We must reiterate the message of early detection and check-ups.

Next month is an important one for many reasons.

Aside from the fact that we will celebrate Independence day, we also have Pinktober.

Cancer survivors have a different view of life. Having come back from the brink of death, they are more accepting of major lifestyle changes.

There is added value placed on family time.

Being positive can make a difference, they say.

In the face of all the talk of death and gloom, it is important to note that people do survive.

A critical factor is early detection.

To have a loved one suffering from cancer can be emotionally and financially draining.

For some families, it is a sad experience to see their loved one make the transition from being a lively person to being bed-ridden and very ill.

This is a worthwhile campaign that deserves attention and acknowledgement and The Fiji Times has long been a very strong supporter.

As experts will tell you, early detection is critically important.

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