On Mother’s Day in Haiti, the May 26th, 2019, the St. Luke Hospital organized a large educational event for Breast Cancer Screening, with more than 200 women having the opportunity to participate. This may not seem like much of a mother's day present to most, but access to healthcare and health education is one of THE most important tools we can provide our patients at St. Luke. In Haiti, most breast cancer patients present at such advanced stages that even modern therapies offer only modest survival benefits, a sad fact that is all too real for doctors and nurses at the hospital. As for incidence and survival rates for patients with breast cancer, Haiti may have the least amount of data available in all of the Western Hemisphere (1).
Thus, our Breast Cancer Screening day began with Dr. Pyram providing a detailed overview on breast cancer, including explaining to our participants the importance of imaging. Our two field agents, Miss Blanc and Miss Fleurime, both survivors of breast cancer, themselves, also discussed the importance of regular self-breast exams, also known as self-palpation. These brave women not only gave their testimonies about surviving breast cancer, but were able to encourage and empower the women participating to take their health into their own hands and come in for an exam when they notice symptoms or abnormalities during a self-exam.
Dr. Amboise was also able to provide awareness with regards to the risk factors for the disease, such as age, number of children, smoking/drinking/eating habits, etc. Breast cancer appears to be on the rise in Haiti, but overall awareness as to the specific agents associated with breast cancer is still significantly lacking. We know we can do better, and so this approach of using education is the BEST tool we have to draw attention to the problem of breast cancer in Haiti, to raise awareness in the population, and to increase financial support allocated to early detection campaigns, treatments, and ultimately treatment of this devastating disease.
All 200 women participated in breast palpation sessions and those with masses benefited from breast sonography on site. After the session 40 women were found to have breast masses, and 5 of them required biopsy, which were provided at the hospital.
After the education and screening sessions, the event ended with a great reception in honor of the participants. The great turnout for this event suggests that the need for education and resources surrounding breast cancer remains great, with little specialized care and services to treat breast cancer in Haiti. Our mission, as a result, is to continue educational outreach to the best of our ability, and expand our specialty services screening breast cancer and providing gynecological treatment.
We couldn't host this Breast Cancer Screening and awareness without the long time friendship of our friends and partners, especially Francesca Rava Foundation, for its significant support to our Breast Cancer Program. With the help of our partners, we continue to look to the future providing the best care for our patients, possible!