Sexta, Março 01, 2024
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The Executive Director of the Alola Foundation (FA), Maria Imaculada Guterres, said Timorese society still believes in traditional treatments for cancer first, and this is validated by the fact 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer turn to traditional medicines first and until their condition is grave before going to a health clinic, and for many this proves fatal.

The Executive Director of the Alola Foundation (FA), Maria Imaculada Guterres, said Timorese society still believes in traditional treatments for cancer first.

She added there are many factors contributing for women to delay their first visit to a health professional, often they are embarrassed, they lack the knowledge, and for financial reasons, because health care and cancer treatments are only available in the capital or outside the country.

“We know that we can manage cancer and prologue someone’s life, but only when it is detected early. But what we see is that before coming to us, they first undertake traditional treatment and seek the traditional doctor’s opinion, and only when the condition is grave, they reach out to us to go get them. And this is the reason why sometimes the doctors say there is nothing more they can do because the cancer is too advanced,” she said during a workshop to mark World Cancer Day, on 4 February, at the hall Pusat Budaya Indonesia, in Mascarenhas, Díli.

She added they will continue to provide education and socialization to the community, on the prevention and on the risk factors that lead to breast cancer, and about the symptoms and methods of self-examination so women can detect earlier if they have it.

She said starting in 2016 and until 2022, they were able to refer 225 patients to the National Hospital Guido Valadares (HNGV), with only four women losing their lives because they had stage 4 cancer, which means the cancer had spread already and their condition was too grave.

Meanwhile, the President of the National Breast Cancer Committee for Timor-Leste, Doctor Alito Soares, said based on data from the breast cancer cases so far, there are four factors causing patients to go too late to see the health professionals.

The factors according to him are that first women turn to culture. Then they undertake traditional treatments. Another factor is lack of knowledge because women think if they find a lump in the breast that it is not cancer. They also believe cancer only affects older women. And finally, they think if they have surgery they will die.

On the other hand, the National Director for Hospital and Emergency Services, in the Ministry of Health, Doctor Nilton da Silva, acknowledges society’s knowledge of health matters needs to be strengthened because reality shows that people are turning to traditional and cultural treatments even for simple types of health conditions, not only for treating cancers.

“We are still a developing nation, and in nations like ours, people’s knowledge of health is still limited and needs to be strengthened. Not just about cancer. Even for simpler health conditions. We stay at home and seek traditional treatments first,” he said.

He said there are factors preventing people from going to a health facility. These factors are cultural and traditional beliefs that are still very strong, lack of knowledge, and the challenges in accessing health care services in Timor-Leste.