Nearly 600 to Benefit from Free Breast Cancer Screening


    Some 600 women in Jamaica now have an opportunity to get screened for breast cancer courtesy of The Jamaica National Group, which experienced an oversubscription of its offer to finance mammograms for 500 women aged 40 and over, within less than a week.

    The offer formed part of the Group’s fifth renewal of its Power of Pink campaign, this year held under the theme ‘Take the Steps’, to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign is targeted at educating Jamaicans and raising funds for cancer research and support for persons affected by the disease. In addition, Jamaican women were given the opportunity to sign up for a free mammogram via the JN Group website; or persons could nominate women over the age of 40 for screening.

    Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer among women in Jamaica and screening for early detection can be unaffordable to many who may have to fork out as much as $9,000 in private facilities. Care is cheaper in public facilities, but mammography machines are only situated at the country’s three type 1 hospitals: The University Hospital of the West Indies, Kingston Public Hospital, both in the Corporate Area, and Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James. The distance for women who do not live in these parishes makes access limited. The Jamaica Cancer Society provides subsidised mammography services, and mammograms can also be done at privately-owned institutions across the country.

    Saniah Spencer, executive for marketing at the JN Group, said the overwhelming response to the offer is confirmation that more women are aware of the importance of early detection, but that many need help to “take the step.”

    “We are happy to know that we will be able to help many Jamaican women with taking one of the steps to know where they stand with breast cancer. And, I use the word ‘step’ because the second step under our Power of Pink ‘Take the Steps’ campaign is to get checked, in other words, get a mammogram done, as early detection can significantly increase one’s chance of survival,” she explained.

    She said The JN Group is aware that the cost to get a mammogram can be relatively expensive for many women, and in the quest to help save lives, the organisation saw it fit to offer this solution for a second year.

    Speaking on an episode of the JN Group breast cancer awareness YouTube series, Keeping Abreast of Your Health, Dr Andre Williams, oncologist, said women should get their mammograms done annually, once they reach the age of 40.

    “The whole principle behind that is if you can detect it early, then you reduce the likelihood that it would be caught at a time when treatment is more involved, harder to achieve, expensive and more devastating to the woman. We really want to be able to identify breast cancer in women as early as possible in their lives,” Dr Williams said.

    Acting executive director of the JCS, Michael Leslie, while speaking at The JN Group Power Pink Pop-Up Session outside the JN Bank Half Way Tree branch recently, noted that although women over 40 are more at risk of the disease, women under 40 are encouraged to do frequent breast self-examinations at home, indicating that the data has been showing an increase in the number of younger women developing breast cancer.

    Mr Leslie noted that 1,208 new breast cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020, which was an increase of more than 25 per cent when compared to 2018. Of the 1,208 cases, there was an estimated 637 breast cancer deaths, which Mr Leslie referred to as “alarming statistics.”

    “Jamaica’s breast cancer rates are worsening over the years. Sixty seven out of every 100,000 women have breast cancer, and it is predicted that one out of every 21 women in Jamaica will develop breast cancer in her lifetime,” he disclosed.

    Was this article helpful?