According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the leading type of cancer for women in developing and developed countries alike. However, in developing countries like Haiti, it is often discovered in later stages, and is therefore often more fatal. Because of this, St. Luke Foundation is working to educate and screen women in hopes of catching the disease in its earliest stages when its prognosis is more promising.
The breast cancer screening program at St. Luke Hospital started in March of 2017 and continues to offer free screening to women each Tuesday and Friday. The hospital has hired two breast cancer survivors to aid in finding and educating at risk women within the community. These two health promoters encourage women to get screened on the days that St. Luke Hospital offers free ultrasound and breast exams. Since March of 2017, over 2,050 women have been screened, and 119 have been diagnosed with breast cancer. St. Luke works in partnership with Innovating Health International, a cancer treatment center in Port-au-Prince that provides chemotherapy treatment. Mastectomies, however, are performed at the St. Luke surgery center.
On October 31, 2018, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, St. Luke Hospital, in partnership with the Francesca Rava Foundation, who has sponsored the entire breast cancer program, held an event providing free breast cancer screenings for over 40 women, as well as other educational activities for over 120 women.
At the beginning of the event, nursing staff at the hospital educated the women on symptoms to look for and how to do a self-examination. After that, Dr. Pyram performed sonogram screenings for 43 women, two of whom were found to have abnormal breast tissue and sent for biopsies. Hopefully with more events like this one, education about breast cancer will spread, not just to St. Luke patients, but also to the communities that these women come from.
After the screenings, the women gathered in the outdoor clinic for further activities. Drs. Colas and Pyram both spoke to the women, thanking them for being there, and encouraging them to visit the clinic if they ever had concerns, symptoms, or a change in a condition. The group also heard from a woman who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, had the necessary operation to remove the cancerous tissue, and had recovered successfully.
The afternoon also included a skit put on by Mrs. Yolette from the hospital’s social services, Nurse Pervil, and Nurse Paul. The ladies demonstrated through the skit what a woman should do if she finds a lump in her breast. Comedy was interwoven and the dramatic presentation was received with much laughter from the women.
After a prayer and a song, the event wrapped up with each of the women getting a take-out box full of rice, beans, chicken and vegetables. All in all, the event was a success, and St. Luke Hospital hopes that events like this will continue to encourage women to get screened, not only for themselves, but also for their families and communities.