Breast Health Awareness Efforts Off to a Flying Start in Sandakan, Sabah with 400 Participants – 22 Apr 2006
By Dr Evelyn Ho, Mary Alex Mansiw and Joseph Tek
Breast cancer is the top cancer amongst Malaysian women. For every 100 women with cancer, 31 of them will be breast cancer patients (National Cancer Registry, 2003). At present, fear and ignorance continue to dominate Malaysians! Unfortunately, one of the most disturbing aspects of breast cancer is that so little can be done to prevent it. The best chance of cure for breast cancer is to treat it at its earliest stage and that is where early detection plays a vital role.
The Duchess of Kent Hospital, Sandakan and IJM Plantations Berhad sponsored and organised a highly successful public forum on “Breast Health” in Sabah Hotel, Sandakan on 22 April, 2006. A total of more than 400 participants turned up for the forum. Admission was free. The objective of the forum was to raise public awareness on breast health. The focus was to educate the participants on early detection via breast self examination (BSE) and highlight the importance of a mammogram. The forum is a continuing effort by the hospital to raise the awareness on breast cancer while IJM Plantations Berhad played the part of a good corporate citizen in its contribution to the local community of Sandakan.
This outreach project was for the benefit of the general public in Sandakan – the main target being the women folk. However, it was a good opportunity for the men to accompany their ladies and realise their important roles in early detection of breast cancer - not just in women but also in men!
There were 3 talks and a demonstration for BSE. The talks were delivered primarily in English/Malay while the practical demonstrations on BSE were conducted in 3 languages – Malay, English and Mandarin.
The Director of Duchess of Kent Hospital, Dr Zorina Khalid gave the opening speech. The first speaker, Dr Azlina Firzah Abdul Aziz, a surgeon with Selayang Hospital, provided a general introduction to breast cancer. According to her, breast cancer is the commonest cancer amongst Malaysian women. The lifetime risk of breast cancer cases amongst Chinese is higher (1 in 14) compared to Indians (1 in 15) and Malays (1 in 24). Contrary to the general thinking, men also can get breast cancer. Notwithstanding all these, a thorough breast cancer situation in East Malaysia including Sabah has yet to be determined.
The second speaker, Dr Kalanithi Nesaratnam is a senior research fellow with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). She provided an update on her ongoing research on palm oil’s vitamin E (tocotrienols) and gene expression in human breast cancer. She also highlighted the other nutritional and health benefits that can be derived from palm oil. In short, consuming palm oil has both healthy and nutritional benefits and this also supports the local oil palm industry – especially when Sandakan alone produces some 8% of the world’s palm oil production.
The final speaker, Madam Mary Alex Mansiw-Tek, a lecturer on-leave from the University Teknologi MARA demonstrated the correct technique to carry out breast self examination (BSE) and highlighted the importance of an annual mammogram. The technique called “Looking and Feeling” was encouraged to be carried out monthly. Mary, a trained radiographer also happens to be one of those driving the setting up of the breast health awareness programmes in Sandakan.
The College of Radiology and the Breast Cancer Welfare Association were very happy to assist the Sandakan effort as awareness in East Malaysia was still very low. Coupled with difficult access to remote areas, it is timely that a group of volunteers have been galvanized into action and the public forum is one of their first forays into promoting breast health/cancer awareness.
Participants of the Train the Trainers Workshop
Prior to the above public forum, a workshop on breast health was also organized for the benefit of selected participants as part of “train the trainers” programme. This was held in the Duchess of Kent hospital on 6 April 2006 and supported by IJM Plantations Berhad.
In order to promote better awareness on breast health in Sabah, a committee on breast cancer awareness under the auspices of the Duchess of Kent Hospital has been formed in Sandakan. This committee will spearhead initiatives covering training, public awareness, outreach programmes beyond Sandakan and also fundraising projects towards meeting its objectives. The support from the public and private sector will be welcome as this committee maps out its programmes for the coming months.
Contact the Sandakan Breast Health Initiative:
Sister Biyanah Marcus - Tel: 088-212111 ext 5255