Port of Spain, Trinidad. Breast cancer awareness month is commemorated in October annually, to increase awareness of the impact of the disease and to highlight the ways in which this impact can be limited. In 2020, breast cancer became the most diagnosed cancer type in the world and overtook lung cancer in number of new cancer cases worldwide (1). In the Caribbean, female breast cancer accounts for more than a quarter (27.4%) of all cancers diagnosed among females (1).
Furthermore, breast cancer is reported as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Caribbean and in 2020, an estimated 5,874 Caribbean women died from breast cancer (1).
However, there are precautions that can be taken that can reduce the burden of this disease. Breast cancer most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast. Seeking medical attention, without a delay of more than 1-2 months, at the first sign of a potential symptom allows for more successful treatment (2).
“Breast cancer treatment can be highly effective, achieving survival probabilities of 90% or higher, particularly when the disease is identified early. In addition to regular screening, adopting healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 30%, and the associated personal and financial costs,” stated Dr. Tamu Davidson, Head of Chronic Disease and Injury at CARPHA.
Here are some healthy lifestyle practices that can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- Regular physical activity
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid alcohol consumption or limit to one drink or less in a day for women
- Do not smoke and if you currently do, try to quit
- Do breast self-examinations and screening tests for breast cancer as recommended
- Get regular check ups
The Caribbean and the world have pledged to the Sustainable Development Goal 3.4 to reduce premature mortality due to breast cancer by a third by 2030. CARPHA is committed to working with its Member States and key partners to reduce the burden of cancer in the Region.
Within the framework of the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development (GICR) led by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has partnered with IARC, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) to develop and implement a regional cancer registry hub for the Caribbean (3).
The IARC Caribbean Cancer Registry Hub works through Ministries of Health to provide technical support to increase the availability, quality and population coverage of population-based cancer registries in the Caribbean through training, research, targeted technical support, and advocacy.
It is well recognized that there is an immediate need for high-quality cancer data for planning, programme implementation and evaluation within the Region (4). Through the work of the Hub, Caribbean countries are better equipped to strengthen cancer surveillance to inform cancer prevention and control (4).
Each year around the world, countries commemorate breast cancer awareness month in October to raise awareness about breast cancer. In keeping with this, CARPHA will focus on the importance of employing strategies that can help to lower the burden of the disease and showcase the power of A Survivor’s Story.
Visit CARPHA’s social media pages to find out more and visit https://caribbeancrh.carpha.org/ for more information about the Hub.
- Ferlay J, Ervik M, Lam F, Colombet M, Mery L, Piñeros M, et al. Global Cancer Observatory: Cancer Today. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2020 https://gco.iarc.fr/today, Accessed September 2022.
- World Health Organization. Breast Cancer Fact Sheet. 2021. https://www.who.int/news- room/fact-sheets/detail/breast-cancer. Accessed October 2022
- Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). IARC Caribbean Cancer Registry Hub. 2018. https://caribbeancrh.carpha.org/The-Caribbean-Hub. Accessed October 2022.
- Quesnel-Crooks S, Martin D, Hanisch R, Kohler B, Mery L, Edwards B, Andall-Brereton G. Cancer Registration in the Caribbean. Journal of Registry Management. 2020;47(3):161-169. PMID: 34128922.