Panama’s Ministry of Health has mobilized Panama’s health sector and the general public to launch a Prostate Cancer campaign for men during this month. October is celebrated globally as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It continues to have as its aim, raising the consciousness of women to the benefits of early detection for higher chances of survival. This month Prostate cancer will share the same stage.
Since 2006, when I first came to Panama, I’ve been most impressed by the obvious national effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. There were huge billboards and strategically located signs on major buildings along with the usual commercialized pink accessories in practically every store. But I’d never seen a national coin dedicated to any kind of cancer awareness before. So imagine my delight when I received as change, a bright shiny 25c Balboa (Panamanian currency). I was impressed!
And yet, with all that effort, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death among Panamanian women. Awareness and is still not growing fast enough. Worse, many women have never even heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer and are still looking for lumps and dependent on mammograms. And sadly too, it is the poorer and more disadvantaged indigenous women who suffer the most. Much more needs to be done to spread the word, and make tests affordable and accessible to all women.
Even with much more ground to cover, women’s awareness of issues surrounding breast cancer is far more advanced than prostate cancer awareness among men in Panama.
Prostate Cancer is most prevalent among the West Indian and Indigenous/Native Panamanians. Panama’s “macho” male image does nothing to help raise awareness. These men, like other ‘manly-men’ elsewhere refuse to go to the doctor to be tested. Usually, when they do and cancer is detected, its already way advanced or too late. This year the Ministry of Health came up with a new measure to raise awareness.
Prostate cancer awareness in Panama, will this year share the spotlight with breast cancer awareness. Perhaps it is hoped that men will catch the spirit of the month and be motivated to join their female counterparts and be tested as well. I really hope that is the case. The waiting list for prostate surgery in major hospitals in Panama is horrifying, and more men need to take preventive measures while they can.
So this month, I’ll be wearing a double ribbon (seen in photo below) in Panama; and hope to encourage all the men and women in my sphere to increase their breast and prostate cancer awareness by educating themselves about detection methods, treatment alternatives, diet and lifestyle changes and so on.
Some additional things I plan to do that you can do too:-
1. Women, especially, should educate themselves about alternative methods of detection of Breast Cancer. There is a lot of controversy surrounding mammograms and their high failure rate in accurately detecting breast cancer.
I’ll encourage women to learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This is a silent killer that mammograms will unlikely detect it. There are no lumps, and you usually find it when its very advanced. I’m still mystified as to why I hear more about mammograms than about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
2. Keep the focus of Breast and Prostate Cancer in your home, workplace, social organizations, and worship services using flyers and brochures; send informative links by email; provide educational bulletin inserts, and share power point presentations to raise awareness.
3. Make donations or help raise funds for cancer research.
4. Invite special speakers to come in and address your group members, staff, or congregation about breast and prostate cancer.
5. Pray. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. So pray for others who are diagnosed with or are survivors of cancer, pray for those who are conducting research, and pray that information reach those who are most in need.