Wednesday, November 22, 2017
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The National Hospital’s Clinical Director, Flavio Brandão, said the hospital did not yet have the capacity to treat stage 3 and 4 cancers.

National Hospital’s Clinical Director, Flavio Brandão, said the hospital did not yet have the capacity to treat stage 3 and 4 cancers.

He said the hospital was not equipped to provide cancer treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but there were plans to establish an oncology unit later this year.

However, he said the hospital was able to provide treatment for stage 1 and 2 breast cancer.

“We can operate on patients with cancer under stage 2 in Timor, but we cannot do operations for cancer at stage 3 and 4 as patients need to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy and we don’t have this treatment available,” he said in his office, Bidau, Dili.

He said the most common type of cancer in Timor was breast cancer and therefore he encouraged mothers and young women to visit their local health facility for a routine breast exam.

He said it was also important that women who noticed an abnormal lump on their breast immediate visit their local health facility for in-depth diagnostics.

With early detection, he said women with breast caner had a much higher chance of survival.

The main risk factors for cancer include an unhealthy lifestyle, particularly poor diet, smoking and other genetic factors.

He called on the Ministry of Health to make breast cancer a national issue of concern and raise awareness among communities about preventative measures as the cost of treatment was still very high.

HALIKU Program Manager for Maternal Health Maria Imaculada said communities in rural areas still had little awareness about the condition.

She said a number of cases had been identified in rural areas where the patients were suffering from advanced stage breast cancer, but had not gone to their local health facilities for treatment due to the lack of information.

“There are a lot of cases of breast cancer and many people hide it,” she said. “When we share information with them some of the patients contact us after and ask us for support to access treatment.”

She said program staff continued to share information about breast cancer symptoms and treatment to communities at the suku (village) level and in some municipalities.

She said they also conduct workshops and have launched an awareness campaign about breast cancer prevention and early detection at basic schools and some secondary schools.

They also provide information to volunteers involved with the program about the symptoms of breast and cervical cancers to help raise awareness among communities in rural areas.

Through the HALIKU program, they have supported 70 breast cancer patients and five with cervical cancers to receive treatment. Of that number, five had since died, while others had recovered or were receiving treatment overseas.

Marie Stopes International Timor-Leste (MSITL) recently provided free breast screening for the month of February.

Clinic head Maia da Costa Tilman said the aim was to encourage more women to get tested.

“Early detection is important because then there is the possibility to save the patient’s life,” she said.

She said anyone can be affected by breast cancer, not only women, so it’s important for everyone to be aware about the disease. 

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