Paulina Quintao – According to the National Hospital Guido Valadares (HNGV) Surgeon, Dr. Alito Soares, most breast cancer patients registered at the National Hospital entered only during the advance stages of the cancer with only a small number surviving.
He said from 2015 to 2018, the hospital registered 285 breast cancer patients, who received treatment at HNGV. From this number, most died, with 11% survival rate, because patients went into the hospital already in stages 3 and 4 of breast cancer, which meant the cancer had already spread to other vital organs, including the lungs and liver.
He added that the number of breast cancer patients has also increased every year, with most of cancer patients in their reproductive ages between 19-40 years old.
"This reality is happening because information is not reaching everyone, especially women, they don't yet understand the disease, which impact on early detection. When it is detected the cancer has already spread," he said during a National Seminar on Women and Cancer Prevention, organized by the National Commission for Cancer Control Timor-Leste, to mark International Women's Day in Dili.
He said breast cancer can be cure if detected and treated early, but when the cancer has already spread, the chances of survival are minimal.
He informed that the current treatment provided by doctors at the National Hospital includes surgery and sending patients for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment overseas.
He urged all women, including young women, to do routine and regular breast examinations for early detection and especially if they detect any unusual change in the breasts appearance.
He explained that signs and symptoms of breast cancer include any abnormal lump on a breast or underarm, which might be painless, skin irritation that looks like orange peel, nipple retraction or turning inward, and nipple discharge, which can be white, yellow or red, breast soreness, and other pains, such as fatigue, weight loss and a swollen underarm.
Meanwhile, the Program Manager for Maternal and Child Health at the Alola Foundation (FA), Maria Imaculada Guterres, said Timor-Leste does not have national data on breast cancer, even though there have been cases registered at the national hospital. She urges also an intervention with information and education to the community.
She acknowledged that most patients with breast cancer are only detected at an advance stage, because they do not receive adequate information about this disease.
"They are detected at an advance stage, and I think they lack information. Therefore, we are making strong efforts to provide education on early prevention and early detection to communities from the national down to the sukus level," she said.
Meanwhile, the representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Rajesh Pandav, said global data showed that almost half a million of women die from breast cancer every year and mostly in low and middle-income countries, because there may not be screening, prevention and treatment available in these countries.
"Awareness, examination and early detection are the first and important steps to combat breast cancer," he said.