Curtain falls on Pinktober 2018 and efforts turn to Movember

The Town Clock being painted back to white as the curtain falls on Pinktober 2018

APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2018: The official program for Pinktober came to a close today following a month long campaign to rally the community towards increasing awareness on the threats of breast cancer.

Since including Pinktober in its annual work plan around six (6) years ago, the Samoa Cancer Society (SCS) has noted a marked increase in local and international community support and engagement.

The increased awareness is crucial towards efforts for a ‘cancer free’ Samoa as is the mandate of the Samoa Cancer Society.

However, the Society can only do so much in awareness campaigns while watching the numbers rise from year to year in members of our community that fall victim to this disease, making breast cancer the highest cancer that Society see each year.

In 2017, 89 patients were referred to Samoa Cancer Society. 19% of these were women with breast cancer. 4 have died. However, only 4 women known to SCS were successfully treated following early detection and presentation to the hospital.

Medical staff, supporters and volunteers

Research has shown that treatment is possible at the early stages (1 & 2) of cancer. However most of the cases presented to SCS are in late stages (3 & 4) that is most of the time, beyond treatment and patients are then only provided the best palliative care possible by the Society.

The in – house statistics from the Samoa Cancer Society is indicative of the alarming rate that breast cancer is spreading amongst women in the community. A small percentage of men is also recorded to have been affected with breast cancer.

The level of treatment available at the National Health Services only extends to mammogram and ultrasound for detection of signs of cancer and surgery once cancer is confirmed. The privilege of overseas treatment supported by the government can benefit those detected with early stages of cancer that can be treated with services such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy through a partnership with our health sector and its counterparts in New Zealand and India. The timeframe of this process can be lengthy for a patient diagnosed with cancer and the delays providing less chance of receiving the necessary treatment in a timely manner.

On the other hand, a patient who is not aware that they have cancer may not utilise any of the limited but available services which has been most of the cases presented to the Society.

Vave Campaign
In order to encourage and instil good practises for our people to be proactive about health checks and receive early diagnosis, Samoa Cancer Society had launched the Vave Campaign earlier this year. This presented a significant impact through its three major components: mass media, printed resources and community outreach.

Public awareness is key to early detection

The success of this campaign has flowed through monthly awareness campaigns to date including Pinktober. In 2017, a total of 495 women were seen over 7 days during the month of Pinktober; 261 had breast Ultrasound, 232 had mammograms done and 18 were treated as highly suspicious.

Media has played an important role in facilitating the key messages put out to the community that has seen the increase in numbers of people visiting the National Health Services to make use of the Free Mammogram & Ultrasound services since the official launch of Pinktober from Day 1.

The enquiries to Samoa Cancer Society included but not limited to patients wanting information on how to get checked, patients diagnosed and seeking further treatments, families of cancer patients who have passed away but want to contribute to the Society in addition to the valuable support of individuals, groups, organisations both government and non-government and the business sector  who have contributed their financial support while also wearing pink with pride at their respective homes and workplaces.

The outreach team at the Society have had a busy schedule with requests to conduct cancer awareness presentations with the community taking ownership to carry awareness forward – not just for themselves but for family members, work colleagues and as a nation.

Movember and Prostate Cancer and Mens’ Health
The work at the Samoa Cancer Society will continue after Pinktober with awareness to focus on Movember which is an awareness campaign surrounding prostate cancer and mens’ health during the month of November.

It is the hope of the Samoa Cancer Society that the community will not lapse in its efforts to prioritise their health and be proactive in seeking medical advice while never ceasing to persevere in asking the necessary questions that they will ultimately receive the treatment against cancer.

Meanwhile to mark the closing of Pinktober activities for 2018, the town clock that has been a beacon of Pink throughout October has been painted back to its original white shade with the release of 20 pink balloons to follow.  Twenty signifying the 20 years since the establishment of the Society but especially in honour of lives lost or living with cancer and the supporters of cancer awareness in Samoa and abroad.