Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama
Minister of Health
Remarks at Launch of Pinktober
I am pleased to be here as the Patron of the Samoa Cancer Society and, the Minister of Health to officially open the Pinktober Breast Cancer Awareness month.
I congratulate the Samoa Cancer Society President, Executive Board, CEO and staff for all your hard work in organizing this event today and the planned events for the rest of October….. Faafetai malo galulue.
Pinktober is the official cancer awareness month for Samoa. It is the month of our sei pua day, pink luncheon fundraising events as well as the planned breast cancer awareness workshops and outreach programs planned and coordinated by the Samoa Cancer Society.
The outreach programs will be conducted in workplaces and village communities throughout the month of October. These outreach programs are crucial to continue to promote and reinforce to our women, the crucial importance of early detection, recognizing the signs and symptoms for breast cancer, seeking medical advice and learning to do breast self-examinations and doing this on a regular basis..
Pinktober is a national initiative under which we as a nation can unite together in the fight against breast cancer.
The World Health Organisation recognizes that at the global level a major problem is that many cancer cases are diagnosed too late. Even in countries with optimal health systems and services, many cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they are harder to treat successfully.
It is therefore important for us all to remember that early diagnosis is key to maximizing chances for surviving cancer.
I urge you to get screening tests regularly whenever and wherever possible to ensure early diagnosis of breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancers and other forms of cancer.
As a Medical Practitioner I encourage self- examination for breast cancer and that every woman needs to learn about the signs and symptoms in order to keep alert to any possible breast cancer. Mothers I urge you to encourage your daughters from within the home environment on the importance of screening and self-examination for breast cancer.
Cancer as you may all be aware is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize to distant sites. This is one of the main reasons why early diagnosis and treatment is so essential to improving chances of survival.
After cardiovascular disease, cancer is the second highest killer of our people, with breast cancer being the most aggressive for Samoan women. It is the Cancer Societies objective to help in the efforts to decrease the prevalence and incidence of breast cancer in Samoa. The Society assists by contributing to and, supporting the health priorities as reflected in Samoas Health Sector Plan, coordinated by the Ministry of Health and, the Governments’ Strategy for the Development of Samoa.
I wish to emphasis that breast cancer is becoming more and more common in Samoa and every girl and woman is encouraged to keep vigilant. Early detection can mean surviving breast cancer. A significant proportion of cancers including breast can be cured, by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy if they are detected early.
For the past 12 months, the Samoa Cancer Society data reports that out of 99 cancer patients referred to the Society, 21 were diagnosed with breast cancer with an additional 11 presented with breast lumps and masses for further investigation. Seventeen of these breast cancers, are late diagnosis at stages three and four, with only four diagnosed as early;…that is at stages one and two.
It is the Societies aim through the ‘Vave’ campaign, which Pinktober is a part of,.. to promote EARLY DECTECTION and the three key Vave messages; VAVE ILOA, VAVE VAAI SE FOMAI and VAVE VILI MAI.
The Ministry of Health is also currently establishing a National Cancer Registry and this will provide invaluable assistance in obtaining vital national data for policy and decision making.
As is with many cancers; risk of breast cancer may be minimized by avoiding exposure to common risk factors, such as tobacco smoke and keeping a healthy lifestyle. This includes, not smoking, healthy diets, minimal or no alcohol, and keeping an active lifestyle.
The choices you make about diet, exercise, and other habits can affect your overall health, your state of well-being, as well as your risk for developing cancer and other serious life threatening diseases.
I wish to stress however that although risk reduction is vital, these strategies alone cannot eliminate deaths due to breast cancers. Early detection in order to improve breast cancer outcome and survival remains a cornerstone of breast cancer control.
We all want a cancer free Samoa.
The Cancer Society, will continue to contribute to the health sectors efforts in this health priority by providing practical support that includes access to mobility equipment, nutritional advice, emotional support and home visits for patients and families that are living with cancer. The Society will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and the National Healthy Service to assist in making things happen.
Another important contribution of the society to our national health efforts includes the assistance with travel and support plans for overseas treatment;.. creating a platform with potential community donors and sponsors who are able to help out financially.
These are some of the Society’s contribution to assist the Ministry of Health, the National Health Service and other health sector partners to alleviate the financial and emotional burden for our cancer patients.
Ladies and Gentlemen it now gives me great please to declare the Pinkotober Breast Cancer Awareness month open. Thank you.