Dozens of women in Portland are to receive breast cancer screening, free of charge.
The screenings have been organised by the Action Ann Foundation founded by Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern Ann-Marie Vaz.
The work of the foundation received an additional boost on the weekend from the Sir Henry Anglers, who organised contributions of some $120,000 to assist the foundation with its work.
The anglers made the announcement at the closing ceremony of their successful 56th Port Antonio Marlin Tournament at the Ole Marina in Port Antonio, Portland. An additional $80,000 was committed by anglers, David and Kathy Moss to the cause.
“We will donate $60,000 and we have a commitment from the National Health Fund for another $60,000. This is for the Action Ann Foundation to provide free mammograms for women in Portland,” announced Maxim Rochester, tournament director.
Vaz said the mammograms will cost about $4,000 each. However, generally mammograms cost upwards of $10,000.
“It is so fitting because of October,” declared Vaz, as she acknowledged the commitment of the anglers. October is recognised internationally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“One of the issues most MPs in rural areas face is that our women are afraid of the mammograms,” she explained, “which leads to unnecessary deaths from breast cancer.”
Her statement was backed up by the Jamaica Cancer Society, whose Executive Director Yulit Gordon revealed, during a recent #JNPowerofPink think tank session, dubbed Beyond Breast Cancer, that fear was among the reasons women were not being screened.
According to Gordon, many women fear the examination, the results of the tests, the treatment, and the adverse effects related to the treatment, despite more than 400 deaths from breast cancer in Jamaica in 2018.
Gordon added that the exorbitant costs to treat cancer and the absence of health insurance to alleviate the financial burden, also posed major challenges for many persons.
Vaz further argued that beyond the fears there is also no mammography machines in Portland, forcing women to go to Kingston, to have their screenings done.
She said her foundation will be transporting the women to Kingston to get the mammograms.
“There is no reason in today’s world that a woman should die from breast cancer,” argued Vaz as she related a story about her own fear mammograms.
However, with the support of her husband, she took the trip to the doctor after discovering a lump in one of her breasts some time ago. Thankfully, the tumour was benign.
“Breast cancer is one of the cancers that can be [prevented] by early detection,” she said, pointing out that many women live long and healthy lives after being diagnosed.
She also encouraged men to support their spouses and to encourage them to get their screenings done.
Mrs Vaz’s initiative was welcomed by JN Bank, one of the sponsors of the 56th Port Antonio Marlin Tournament, who, through the JN Group, has also mounted its second #JNPowerofPink campaign for October to raise awareness about the importance of early detection; celebrate survival and pay homage to persons who relentlessly fought the disease.
Chief of business banking and Portland native, Ryan Parkes, commended anglers for recognising the cause, given the economic realities in Portland. The parish, although peaceful, is among the poorest in the country with a poverty rate of 21.5 per cent.
“Breast cancer is recognised as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women and it’s affecting women at the most productive stages of their lives based on the data. Therefore, it’s important that tournaments like this play a part in addressing these issues that will eventually feed into the development of the parish,” said Parkes.