Early Detection Saves Lives – The MEPS TRUST Well Woman Clinic visits establishments in Freetown, promoting early detection of breast cancer to improve survival rates.
In response to an invitation from the DFID office, situated off Spur Road, Freetown, on Friday, 13th October, the Well Woman Clinic gave a talk to both male and female members of staff, and also to members of the staff of the British High Commission. Three representatives from the Clinic were present - Mrs Tina Davies OBE, Breast Cancer Care adviser at the Well Woman Clinic and former NHS breast cancer care nurse in London, Mrs Jennifer Renner-Thomas, Trustee MEPS Trust and Programme Director of the Clinic, and Nurse Glenna Kargbo.
Tina was the main speaker. She spoke on breast cancer, including a brief description of the anatomy of the breast. Jennifer gave a short history of the MEPS Trust Well Woman Clinic, and Glenna demonstrated breast self-examination, using a poster which showed what to look for in a mirror and how to self-examine the breast itself. Questions and answers followed, and one staff member asked how she could become a friend of the Clinic.
The Well Woman Clinic, it was noted, encourages volunteers to assist in its work and has volunteers from a wide spectrum of the society. The voluntary chair and coordinator of the fundraising and awareness committee are Ms Edleen Elba and Ms Ajara Bomah. Volunteering is also encouraged in the sister friendly Breast Cancer Survivors’ Club, and in the areas of awareness raising, fundraising, and clinical work.
Jennifer encouraged staff members to attend the Clinic for regular breast checks, telling them not to be afraid to do so as the percentage of clients diagnosed with breast cancer was relatively small compared with those whose breasts were found to be abnormal. Using statistics from the Clinic, she said that out of a 100 clients, 60 might have abnormal breasts and of those, 24 might require further investigations, with only 4-6 having a confirmed diagnosis of breast cancer. Tina advised that it was better to have frequent checks as early diagnosis gave one a great chance of survival.
Leaflets were distributed on breast self-examination and cervical cancer. The deputy head of office, Ms Angela Spilsbury who was the organizer of the event, thanked the Well Woman Clinic for their work in the community, and for giving staff members such practical advice on breast self-examination.
In February this year, the Clinic had participated in a health fair organized by the US Embassy which attracted about 100 staff members and their families. Sister Adija Salam gave a similar talk on breast cancer and demonstrated breast self-examination to those present. Some staff members volunteered to be screened.
Also in February, the Clinic held a 2-day outreach programme on its own premises to commemorate World Cancer Day. Many women were taught to examine their breasts and were also screened for abnormalities, free of charge.
Since October has been designated the breast cancer awareness month, staff of the Clinic have been visiting various establishments to educate women and men on the subject and promote breast self-examination. We shall end the month with two days of free education and screening at the Clinic.
It is our fervent hope that, as a result of these outreach efforts, many more women in Sierra Leone will become fully breast aware and also equipped to pass on to others the message that, “Early Detection Saves Lives.”