Categorized | Columns, Features, Health

Montserrat’s Mammogram Programme on Stream

By Cathy Buffonge

Breast cancer is a common cause of death worldwide, including the Caribbean, and this has caused grief to many families. However, experts say, this does not have to be so. Techniques like breast self examination, clinical breast exam (performed by a doctor or nurse) and screening mammogram can save lives by detecting cancer at a very early stage where it can be successfully treated, thus adding worthwhile years to life. October is known internationally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with stress on the critical importance of early detection..

What is a mammogram? It is a special X-ray of the breasts, which can detect many problems, from a simple lump to a possibly cancerous growth. Mammography is done using a special type of X-ray machine, however the purchase and maintenance of this equipment is out of range for many smaller territories.

Montserrat therefore has embarked on a fund raising drive to send women to Antigua for digital screening mammograms, by special arrangement with the Belmont Clinic. This voluntary initiative is the brain child of clinical specialist sonographer Sonia Charles, who visits Montserrat several times a year to perform and report on ultrasound scans. Ultrasound is a great diagnostic tool, but not a substitute for mammogram, she says.

Sonia, a Montserratian professional based in the UK, is passionate about getting as many women as possible to have digital mammograms under this project, and pours her energy and sometimes her own resources into making a success out of it. Sonia and her diagnostic imaging company Caribscan have been instrumental to the project, as well as the privately owned Belmont Clinic and its Director, radiologist Dr Eumel Samuel.

In 2009 the first fund raising event was held, in the form of a gala dinner and auction of local art work.  This was followed in 2010 by a fundraising Walkathon, named the Pink Ribbon Walk (the breast awareness logo).  People were asked to get sponsors for the walk, and many did so, resulting in the collection of moneys to start the Mammogram Fund, which will eventually become a full scale charity. Funds also came from as far away as Toronto, Canada, where Montserratian nursing administrator Mary Glavassavich of Sunnybrook Hospital raised funds for this cause.

In a special arrangement with Sonia, the Belmont Clinic has agreed to do half price mammograms for women from Montserrat under the project, with the remaining half being paid for by the Mammogram Fund, and recently at a special ceremony, seventy women were presented with vouchers to access this free service.

An arrangement was also made, through the Ministry of Communications and Works, for cut-price ferry tickets between Montserrat and Antigua, so that this and their departure tax is all the women have to pay. Several women have taken advantage of this service, and every Saturday a group of twenty or more is expected to travel together to Antigua, where the Belmont Clinic will provide free transportation to and from the clinic.

The next fund raiser is another Pink Ribbon walk on November 5th, and from this it is hoped that the remaining women who have registered can be given vouchers for this service. Names are still being taken, on the understanding that those first registered get first preference.

In addition to having a mammogram every two to three years, women should examine their breasts monthly, and are encouraged to visit their local clinics for information on breast examination and breast health.  Women should also have their breasts examined by a doctor or nurse once a year, or more often if there is any doubt. It must be emphasized that every lump found is not necessarily cancer, in fact the majority may not be cancer at all. But it’s important to know, so that steps can be taken to investigate and deal with the problem, resulting in better health and much longer quality lives.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Cathy Buffonge

Breast cancer is a common cause of death worldwide, including the Caribbean, and this has caused grief to many families. However, experts say, this does not have to be so. Techniques like breast self examination, clinical breast exam (performed by a doctor or nurse) and screening mammogram can save lives by detecting cancer at a very early stage where it can be successfully treated, thus adding worthwhile years to life. October is known internationally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with stress on the critical importance of early detection..

What is a mammogram? It is a special X-ray of the breasts, which can detect many problems, from a simple lump to a possibly cancerous growth. Mammography is done using a special type of X-ray machine, however the purchase and maintenance of this equipment is out of range for many smaller territories.

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Montserrat therefore has embarked on a fund raising drive to send women to Antigua for digital screening mammograms, by special arrangement with the Belmont Clinic. This voluntary initiative is the brain child of clinical specialist sonographer Sonia Charles, who visits Montserrat several times a year to perform and report on ultrasound scans. Ultrasound is a great diagnostic tool, but not a substitute for mammogram, she says.

Sonia, a Montserratian professional based in the UK, is passionate about getting as many women as possible to have digital mammograms under this project, and pours her energy and sometimes her own resources into making a success out of it. Sonia and her diagnostic imaging company Caribscan have been instrumental to the project, as well as the privately owned Belmont Clinic and its Director, radiologist Dr Eumel Samuel.

In 2009 the first fund raising event was held, in the form of a gala dinner and auction of local art work.  This was followed in 2010 by a fundraising Walkathon, named the Pink Ribbon Walk (the breast awareness logo).  People were asked to get sponsors for the walk, and many did so, resulting in the collection of moneys to start the Mammogram Fund, which will eventually become a full scale charity. Funds also came from as far away as Toronto, Canada, where Montserratian nursing administrator Mary Glavassavich of Sunnybrook Hospital raised funds for this cause.

In a special arrangement with Sonia, the Belmont Clinic has agreed to do half price mammograms for women from Montserrat under the project, with the remaining half being paid for by the Mammogram Fund, and recently at a special ceremony, seventy women were presented with vouchers to access this free service.

An arrangement was also made, through the Ministry of Communications and Works, for cut-price ferry tickets between Montserrat and Antigua, so that this and their departure tax is all the women have to pay. Several women have taken advantage of this service, and every Saturday a group of twenty or more is expected to travel together to Antigua, where the Belmont Clinic will provide free transportation to and from the clinic.

The next fund raiser is another Pink Ribbon walk on November 5th, and from this it is hoped that the remaining women who have registered can be given vouchers for this service. Names are still being taken, on the understanding that those first registered get first preference.

In addition to having a mammogram every two to three years, women should examine their breasts monthly, and are encouraged to visit their local clinics for information on breast examination and breast health.  Women should also have their breasts examined by a doctor or nurse once a year, or more often if there is any doubt. It must be emphasized that every lump found is not necessarily cancer, in fact the majority may not be cancer at all. But it’s important to know, so that steps can be taken to investigate and deal with the problem, resulting in better health and much longer quality lives.