Pinktober ends for another year
Pinktober was officially closed yesterday following a month-long campaign to rally the community towards increasing awareness on the threats of breast cancer.
To mark its closing, the iconic Apia town clock was repainted back to its original white colour, and 20 pink balloons were released to signify 20 years since the establishment of the Samoa Cancer Society (S.C.S.), but especially in honor of lives lost or living with cancer and supporters of cancer awareness.
Since the induction of Pinktober into its annual work plan around six years ago, the Society has noted a marked increase in local and international community support and engagement, said a statement.
The increased awareness is crucial towards efforts for a “cancer free” Samoa as is the mandate of the Society.
“However, the Society can only do so much in awareness campaigns while watching the numbers rise from year to year in members of our community that fall victim to this disease, making breast cancer the highest cancer that the Society sees each year.”
According to the statement, in 2017, 89 patients were referred to Samoa Cancer Society, 19 percent of these were women with breast cancer. Four have died. However, only four women known to SCS were successfully treated following early detection and presentation to the hospital.
Research has shown that treatment is possible at stages one and two of cancer. However most of the cases presented to SCS, according to the statement, are in late stages – three and four, that is most of the time, beyond treatment and patients are then only provided the best palliative care possible by the Society.
The in-house statistics from the Samoa Cancer Society is indicative of the alarming rate that breast cancer is spreading amongst women in the community. A small percentage of men are also recorded to have been affected with breast cancer, said the statement.
“The level of treatment available at the National Health Services only extends to mammogram and ultrasound for detection of signs of cancer and surgery once cancer is confirmed.”
“The privilege of overseas treatment supported by the government can benefit those detected with early stages of cancer that can be treated with services such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy through a partnership with our health sector and its counterparts in New Zealand and India. The timeframe of this process can be lengthy for a patient diagnosed with cancer and the delays providing less chance of receiving the necessary treatment in a timely manner.”
On the other hand, a patient who is not aware that they have cancer may not utilise any of the limited but available services which has been most of the cases presented to the Society.
In order to encourage and instil good practises for our people to be proactive about health checks and receive early diagnosis, Samoa Cancer Society had launched the Vave Campaign earlier this year. This presented a significant impact through its three major components: mass media, printed resources and community outreach.
The success of this campaign has flowed through monthly awareness campaigns to date including Pinktober. In 2017, a total of 495 women were seen over 7 days during the month of Pinktober; 261 had breast ultrasound, 232 had mammograms done and 18 were treated as highly suspicious.
Media has played an important role in facilitating the key messages put out to the community that has seen the increase in numbers of people visiting the National Health Services to make use of the free mammogram and ultrasound services since the official launch of Pinktober from day one.
The enquiries to the Society included, but not limited to patients wanting information on how to get checked, patients diagnosed and seeking further treatments, families of cancer patients who have passed away but want to contribute to the Society in addition to the valuable support of individuals, groups, organisations both government and non-government and the business sector, who have contributed their financial support while also wearing pink with pride at their respective homes and workplaces, said the statement.
“The outreach team at the Society have had a busy schedule with requests to conduct cancer awareness presentations with the community taking ownership to carry awareness forward - not just for themselves but for family members, work colleagues and as a nation.
“The work at the Samoa Cancer Society will continue after Pinktober with awareness to focus on Movember, which is an awareness campaign surrounding prostate cancer and men’s’ health during the month of November.”
The Society hopes that the community will not lapse in its efforts to prioritise their health and be proactive in seeking medical advice while never ceasing to persevere in asking the necessary questions that they will ultimately receive the treatment against cancer.