"Nou kapab, Mwen Kapab" (I Can, We Can) is the theme for World Cancer Day. Innovating Health International celebrated this significant day with our wonderful patients and supportive community in Haiti. To commemorate #WorldCancerDay, IHI organized a day of education, awareness, testimonies, screenings and more.
We understand the importance of spreading the correct information about cancer in Haiti which is why we made it a point to cover all aspects of cancer, its treatments, prevention methods and more during this special day. We had an amazing turnout, over 150 people showed up and we were able to screen for both cervical and breast cancer.
This was IHI's second year celebrating #WorldCancerDay and this time we focused on bringing in information as well as screening/treatment. The women present were able to learn about breast and cervical cancer and also get screened. The three main components of this event was awareness and education, breast and cervical cancer screenings and engagement with our support group.
Awareness and Education
We organized a day of awareness and education on cancer, especially breast and cervical cancer. We had Dr. Gassant (figure 4 & 6) who is the Director of Pediatric Oncology at l'Hopital St. Damien. She discussed symptoms, preventative methods and ways to treat childhood cancer.
We also had 3 patient testimonies on their experience with cancer; 2 breast cancer survivors and 1 man who had cancer in his neck. It is always important for us to showcase survivors and people that have trespassed what our current patients are going through. It puts a face to the issue and also highlights the realities of the situation, shows the hardships but also debunked many myths that many Haitians have when it comes to cancer. It's one thing to learn about cancer from a doctor or medical practitioner, but it is a much more impactful and meaningful exchange when hearing a cancer patient's story of survival.
Our nurse Nanotte also did a small education session on cervical cancer. She described the treatments available, the societal pressures, the symptoms to look out for, etc... She also addressed people that believe in the supernatural which is a prominent part of the Haitian culture. She discussed the tendency for many Haitians who believe in the supernatural/voodoo to only seek treatment in that realm without weighing out their options. She encouraged them to get opinions from not only their faith but also a doctor when it comes to whatever illness or malaise they are facing. It is important to address the cultural, societal beliefs and inclinations when it comes to seeking and getting treatment. It can often be a sensitive subject for many (when addressing their faith) but it serves a greater purpose and can help save many people's lives.
One of our main goals for World Cancer Day was to provide FREE screenings for cervical and breast cancer. We were able to screen over 70 women for cervical cancer with the VIA/Cryo method. Those that tested positive were immediately treated by thermocoagulation. 56 women had breast exams and those with abnormalities were referred to our program for a consultation. This put a light on the immense need in Haiti for more screening, especially for cervical cancer. We are pleased with the outcome and hope to continue this effort.
Survivors got to discuss their experiences with cancer and how it has affected them. They talked about detecting symptoms and the missteps they themselves had in their journey. It was important for them to talk about the stigmas and discrimination they faced when they themselves were diagnosed and going through treatment. One of the main lesson of the day was to share the information learned. Disregarding the differences the participants might of had with others, the participants were encouraged to share this information and refer people to programs like ours to get the treatment they deserve.
World Cancer Day gave us the opportunity to continue to spread awareness on breast and cervical cancer, the work that IHI is doing in Haiti and also provide free cervical cancer screenings for women who often don't know where to go to receive the care they deserve. It is often times a privilege for many women to be able to know of available treatments and to afford it. World Cancer Day is important not only for spreading awareness but to also remind us all of all the work that needs to be done and the many lives that can be saved from cancer.
To learn more about #WorldCancerDay visit their website: http://www.worldcancerday.org
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