By Shermakaye Bass
Fara Clinic staff and members of the community have launched a breast cancer support group for patients who have been diagnosed with the disease or are already battling the disease. We also welcome anyone who has a friend or loved one who is faced with breast cancer. The initiative is the latest step in our two-year program to increase awareness and encourage screenings.
The “Women Survival Breast Cancer Support Group” held its first meeting in mid-April, with four patients in attendance. Our consulting psychologist, Marly Chavarria, is leading the group, which provides emotional support and facilitates the sharing of resources and survival strategies. We also hope it will be a forum where women can find hope and solace and inspire others with their stories of how to cope — and how to ultimately triumph over breast cancer.
Attending the first gathering were 31-year-old Meyling Machado, 32-year-old Brenda Mendoza, 43-year-old Ana Rosa Diaz and 51-year-old Mercedes Chavarria. Ana Rosa and Mercedes were diagnosed at Fara Clinic and are now receiving treatment; Meyling and Brenda received diagnosis in the past two to three years and have already undergone surgery and chemotherapy. The group will continue to meet every other Saturday at our clinic in Matagalpa, and we hope to expand both membership (free, of course) and increase awareness of the dangers of this devastating condition.
Early detection of breast cancer is the best “treatment.” And the best way to detect it is through regular screenings.
Over the past two years, Fara Clinic has provided breast exams to some 1,000 to 1,300 women, and approximately 10 cases have been detected. We also have made breast cancer screenings a part of our standard exam for women who come to the clinic for cervical cancer screenings, or PAP/IVAA testing. Breast exams include a physical exam, and, for those who present with breast pain or suspicious lumps, ultrasound diagnostics. We also provide biopsy or true cut measures.
This community campaign is yielding positive statistics: Now, approximately 85 to 90 percent of all patients older than age 25 are receiving physical breast exams; 10 to 20 percent of our total daily consultation is now devoted to breast cancer screening alone. So we are making a difference. And the support group will, too.
The good news overall is that official US and Pan-American studies show that rates of breast cancer are decreasing across Nicaragua due to a rise in screenings.
In our region, Fara Clinic is pleased to partner with numerous organizations in these efforts. Among those are the MINSA (MOH) regional hospital, rural community centers, organizations such as Buen Samaritano, Casa Cancer (Jinotega), Obras Sociales, the ADDAC women’s cooperatives and regional police departments. We are very honored to contribute to this process.