Doctor urges regular checks for women to avoid breast cancer

Posted on Mar 08 1999

An obstetrician-gynecologist has appealed to women in the CNMI to undergo regular health examination to prevent having breast and cervix cancer, two of the most common causes of deaths among women on the island.

In a symposium last Saturday sponsored by the First Lady’s Vision Foundation, Dr. Helen Taro-Atalig of the Commonwealth Health Center said 49 percent of the women in the CNMI last year were found suffering from cervical cancer. Of the total female population of 22,544 (15 years old and above) ,some 66.2 percent are found to be afflicted of breast cancer here, Atalig added.

In the United States, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer disease that afflicts American women, second only to lung cancer.

At the same time, the mortality rate among CNMI women is twice higher than the US mainland due to the delay in diagnosis brought about by the reluctance to take mammogram test or take self breast examination. Most local women are sent off island for irradiation or chemotherapy treatment.

Compared to white American women, the mortality rate of those afflicted with cervical cancer is nine times higher among Chamorro women and 20 times higher among Carolinian women.

By 1999 in the US, there will be 12,800 cases of invasive cancer with 4,800 women expected to dive from this disease.

Cancer of the cervix takes many years to develop, said Atalig as she asked the women to take regular pap smear test, colposcopy, cervical biopsy for immediate detection. Among the common symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal bleeding, smelly vaginal discharge, discomfort during intercourse and bleeding after menopause.

Atalig said women should watch out for any lump in their breast, any change in the size or shape, lump or thickening, blood stained discharge and rash or nipple.

“Pain in your breast is usually not a symptom of breast cancer,” she said. Atalig added that many women would feel their breast lumpy and tender before their monthly period.

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better prospects for women that they would be cured of the disease. Early detection includes self breast exam, clinical breast exam, mammogram, color, dopler, needle biopsy, needle aspiration and excision biopsy.

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