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Commentary: Breast Cancer: Taking another glance for the right reason
Published on October 14, 2015 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Derrick Miller

Reflection: One year ago, many of us landed on the island and paid our last tribute to a pioneer who served over 30 years in public safety rising through the ranks as a woman who died too soon from breast cancer. Her death has left more questions surrounding this disease. For many in the region, breast cancer always has more questions than answers, but it all comes back to awareness:

Derrick Miller holds a BS degree in economics and finance, an MBA in global management and a MS in criminal justice leadership and management. He has worked in the US public safety and criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted at and
October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For the victims it is more than 31 days. This can be a death sentence if not treated. This month should not only be a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer, but holding leaders, especially in communities, to make it a priority for greater investments in treatment and screening to address this silent killer

The Data: Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer that affects women of all ethnic group globally. According to several studies, one in eight women born today will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it is found and treated early. A simple mammogram screening is the single most important step. It can help detect breast cancer early when it is easier to treat.

Even if your community does not wear pink colour in support of this terrible disease, it is a time to pause and look at health in general in your community and what has been done. Studies still show that breast cancer remains the number one killer among women, with over 250,000 patients yearly diagnosed according to a the US.1 report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported that black people had the highest rate, followed by white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native people. The American Society on Nutrition also noted that despite an increase in recent survival rate, African Americans, which include Afro-Caribbean and Hispanics, continue to have a lower survival rate and, although there are still ongoing studies, some evidence points to post diagnostic life style behaviour.

Awareness: One must understand that, given the data presented, more needs to be done in the region. The same energy that promotes, in advance, the next Reggae Sun Splash, Carnival event or how fast Usain Bolt is going to run, simply broadcasting the wearing of more pink T-shirts this month can highlight the importance of this disease.

You Too: This is not only a women parts issue: as I have written in the past, quietly, several men are also being taken from their communities other than as an inmate number or the massive killings. It is also called male breast cancer: today younger men are also at high risk

Here is the simplest prognosis: A breast cancer is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast. “A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that may grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.”

According to the American Cancer Society, there are a few basic questions your doctors should be asking

• do you have breast pain?
• do you have a lump?
• nipple retraction, or skin changes?
• rashes around the nipple?
• swollen lymph nodes under the arms?

Men are at lower risk than women for breast cancer, but it remains high, especially for men with a history of testicular disease, and ones with a genetic predisposition, radiation, excessive alcohol use, liver disease, and obesity according to the International Journal of Caring Science and other leading oncologic care studies.

Changing Focus: A mastectomy for many can be a farfetched idea due to cost, and the lack of other resources. However, debunking the social stigma is also critical. Sometimes even when basic treatment is available inside the community, it remains taboo, and the feeling of being an outcast leaves many clinging on to just a few circle of friends when emotional support is as vital as the medication. Moreover, the local voodoo doctor cannot cure this disease.

Sure, you can pray, but prayer should also be a source of guidance to gain knowledge to make the right decision to seek help. The same energy that many expect from supporters during sporting events, when medical, and other social issues surfaces, it seems if it has been washed out to sea. However, the tides always bring this debris back to shore.

If I were to ask for the data on the amount of women who died each year in the region from this disease, I believe the medical and vital statistics field would be still searching for many years to come.

Access to medical care should not be about the haves vs. the have-nots. According to many studies, intraoperative radiotherapy is a promising form of treatment. However, it has to become more available, and inexpensive to patients. One has to make sure it is not been seen as a privilege, but the right of people whether your night light is kerosene oil in a glass lamp or the flood light that beams overlooking the city and the ocean.

Priority: Recently, the ministry of justice in the United Kingdom, announced a £25 million deal to build a prison in Jamaica so that 300 incarcerated Jamaicans, now in the UK, can be sent home to serve sentences on the island

It seems this was welcome news for some leaders. What if the enthusiasm centered on other issues that would support a commission to update more hospitals, and build radiation facilities manned with qualified doctors, and ongoing awareness to local schools where thousands of young men and women will become victims to breast cancer and other diseases Alternatively, move to remodel several run-down schools that could use an upgrade.

The British prison problem will not be solved with more prisons, regardless of the location or cultural connection. A healthy society tends to produce productive people, and thus lowers the incentive for high migration for better medical care and overall better quality of life. Some of these offspring are criminals because of a poor system that brought them and their parents to the United Kingdom.

Jamaica and other islands are now overwhelmed in managing local criminals, and those roaming their streets after periods of incarceration. These gangs are causing mayhem as reported on the ongoing crimes waves. What will happen with these sophisticated criminals after few are released without resources?

These once colonial powers should not offer their problem to other nations for its own solution.

However, this opinion is not about the role of a new Caribbean prison, gullibility and the appetite for handouts while ignoring the potential long-term negative impact. However, concerning public safety and proper rehabilitation of the offender population has to still be a high priority in any region, but building a prison does not bring the economic propensity in a service economy.

Let us take a stand: Today, there are several organizations working on the fight against breast cancer and other diseases. “Get involved” and even your frequent flyer miles to other countries to be seen by some of the best doctors can be donated to some organization in the fight against this disease.

Today, make an effort to bring much needed awareness to others. She has been gone now and many others like her before and more to come. Despite her stellar life, this disease did not spare her.

In a recent conversation I had with a leading physician from Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital in trying to see about my own health, he advised people are dying far less from this disease if caught early, and access proper care is key. Although this provides some hope, disparities still persist and especially in poor and developing counties.

This month and beyond you should take a trip or a loved one to the doctor about that lump that has been there for some time and maybe and not feeling isolated, you can begin to peek at it, and ask questions without fear.
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