Zonta gives voice to breast cancer awareness
On the evening of October 25, the Women’s International Club hall was flooded with hues of pink, representing breast cancer survivors; the pink ribbon – honouring the courage, hope, strength of women who’ve fought through breast cancer, and solidarity with those presently facing it.
The programme on Breast Cancer awareness was organised by the Zonta Club ll of Colombo in collaboration with the Women’s International Club and Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce with guest speaker Dr. Kanchana Wijesinghe, consultant surgeon at the Colombo South Hospital and senior lecturer of the Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Science at University of Sri Jayawardenapura University. Also present was Dr. Lanka Dissanayake, chairperson of the Indira Cancer Trust and doctors and representatives of Asiri Hospital, Durdans, Nawaloka, NineWells and Lanka Hospitals.
“Building awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection has been an important project for our club for the past several years,” said Arukshi Rajapaksha, President of the Zonta Club II of Colombo, highlighting the training programmes conducted for medical personnel and nurses on required breast surgery post-op care with their partners from Australia. She said this was the main event of a series of programmes conducted to highlight the gravity of breast cancer and the need for early detection.
In an enlightening awareness session, Dr. Wijesinghe presented statistics that one in eight – approximately 3,000 women in Sri Lanka are diagnosed every year. She emphasised the importance of early detection and monthly self-exams. A lump in the breast or axilla, changes in the skin, ulceration, redness, nipple retraction or even a rash were some symptoms.
“Consider treatment to be a short-term therapy for a long-term outcome,” she said, citing the reluctance of women to actively seek out treatment due to their inability to change their lifestyle or the refusal to accept their diagnosis. Most women diagnosed are young working mothers, and when some ultimately come for treatment, it is too late. “The youngest case was a mother with a child of just six months old,” she said, “I just didn’t know how to answer her back.” It is devastating to lose hair and feel your whole body weaken under the effects of chemotherapy, but the treatment lasts for around six or seven months – as opposed to a future lost. Money should go towards getting mammograms down to public hospitals – for women to have check-ups once every two years, she said.
“Traditional thinking” that breast removal surgery was the only option in terms of seeing off the cancer, whereas breast preserving surgeries or minor reconstructions are now available. “This is how advanced we are in Sri Lanka about breast surgery,” Dr Wijesinghe said addressing various myths that persist. It is not just women – but there is a 1% possibility of a male getting diagnosed, she said, explaining that regardless of family history or health levels, anyone could be affected. “Your health inevitably affects every part of your life,” Dr. Kanchana concluded her speech. “You need to put yourself first.”
Zontian Dr. Mala Tudawe in her address exhibited the Zonta breast comfort care cushion, more than 2000 of which have been delivered to hospitals across the country free of charge.
Mammogram vouchers were donated to the Zonta Club by partner hospitals, as the prize for a competition (by the club) on the importance of early detection.
Zontian Vidyani Hettigoda, the project chairperson delivered the vote of thanks. The event was sponsored by Hatton National Bank.
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