A busy Breast Cancer Month ahead

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when people and organisations come together to spread awareness and raise funds to battle the disease.

The prevalence of breast cancer in the Cayman Islands, like all other kinds of cancer, remains unknown as until recently, no comprehensive records of local cases were kept. This is changing, however, with the establishment in 2010 of the Cancer Registry – a database of cancer cases which will help formulate public health policies in battling cancer and determine how widespread the disease is.

According to Milena Conolly, who runs the Cancer Registry, it will be five years or more before enough information will be collected to give a clear picture of the prevalence of breast and other kinds of cancers, but the work has begun.

In the shorter term, activities throughout the month of October serve to raise awareness among the local community about breast cancer; to let breast cancer survivors share their stories with each other and the public; and to raise money to help breast cancer sufferers.

The Lions Club of Tropical Gardens each year organises awareness meetings throughout all the districts of the Cayman Islands, at which doctors and specialists, along with survivors, get together to educate and inform members of the public about the disease. During those meeting, the members of the Lions Club hand out hundreds of vouchers for free mammograms and pap smears, which are supplied by the Cancer Society.

An opening ceremony for the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens’ Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be held at Camana Bay on Monday, 1 October, at 5.30pm to kick off the month’s events. The theme of this year’s campaign is “United for the cause – Together we’re positively pink.”

Friday, 12 October is Dress Pink Day when people are invited to show their support in the fight against breast cancer by wearing pink to work. Later that evening, a Dress Pink Affair will be held at Camana Bay in support of the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens’ campaign.

On 19 October, bidders will get a chance to take part in an auction with a difference at the Marriott Hotel to raise funds for the Cancer Society, at which some of Cayman’s high-profile individuals will be auctioned off to spend time with the highest bidders.

On Saturday, 20 October, the Brenda Tibbetts Lund 5K Memorial Run/Walk to raise funds will start at Public Beach on West Bay Road at 6am. Brenda Tibbetts Lund, a strong activist for breast cancer awareness, passed away in 1998 from breast cancer. Shortly after her death, the Lions Club of Grand Cayman established this annual cancer walk in her honour.

Hairdressers and beauticians also getting involved in the annual awareness drive. This year, Eclipze Hair Design and Day Spa will host a Cut-A-Thon at its salon in Camana Bay from 2pm to 6pm on Sunday, October 21, with volunteers from several salons and spas on Grand Cayman offering wet cuts, mini manicures, eye brow threading and $1 a minute massages. All proceeds will be donated to the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens Breast Cancer Awareness Fund.

And on Sunday, 28 October, Sameena’s Beauty Salon will hold a Day of Beauty at its Coe Centre location on North Church Street in support of the campaign.

There will also be a special, invitation only, breakfast for breast cancer survivors held on Saturday, 27 October.

While breast cancer continues to afflict patients in Cayman, investigations into the causes and prevalence of local cases of breast and ovarian cancer are currently underway following the launch last month of a new study to examine if there is a genetic propensity for breast cancer among Caymanian women.

The study, funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, involves simple saliva DNA tests on Caymanian women who have had ovarian or breast cancer to determine if they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.