December 30th, 2013 -- The Loving Touch ...Gentle Exam is a dream turned reality when the Nevis Maternal Health Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Health launched a campaign to raise awareness and answer questions about cancer. Cancer a disease that is not only invading and affecting the human body but robbing families, communities and our country as a whole of some of its most productive citizens.
It is recognized that women, many in the prime of life are the ones frequently being diagnosed and so the decision was taken to concentrate this time, on two of the more common cancers affecting women, breast and cervical cancers.
There is much information and literature, media broadcast, clinics, workshops, etc, concerning the topic of cancer and the Loving Touch Gentle Exam added to the message by reaching out directly into the communities...and touching..... The campaign sought to meet ladies in an environment where they were comfortable to interact directly with the doctors and nurses, to ask questions and share concerns regarding this disorder.
Meetings have been held in every Parish throughout the island starting in St. Paul’s and culminating in St. John’s. At each meeting two short locally produced films were the launch pad for the discussions. Both films were the brain child of Dr Jessica Bardales (a cancer patient herself) a strong and dedicated clinician with a deep passion to fight against this scourge with every cell within her.
Interestingly the first film (focusing on cervical cancer) was created before she even knew that an errant cancer cell was targeting her too. However her experience and struggles with cancer made her even more resilient and so with the help of fellow professional colleagues, ‘film making’ friends ,volunteers and other cancer survivors and fighters the second film was produced and was viewed as the launch pad for discussions at each gathering.
The panel of experts included Dr John Essien, Dr Robert George and the competent and well trained public health and community nurses. The meetings were well attended and the discussions lively, informative and at times entertaining. Although the focus was on Breast and cervical cancers there were men present at every session. This was encouraging and is indicative that cancer, regardless of the gender infected, it is the family that is affected.
The key and vital message throughout the campaign and what we hope everyone reading this article would take seriously is that EARLY DETECTION ...DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE! As regards cervical cancer.... if you are a woman and are sexually active you need to have an annual pap smear an examination that screens for changes in the cervix and vagina. Pap smears are available at the health centres in St. Kitts –Nevis FREE of charge or by private doctors.
As regards Breast Cancer....women are encouraged to know their own breasts, to learn how to feel, touch and look for any changes and to early seek medical help if any change is noted .Women are also recommended to have regular mammograms from the age of 40 or earlier if they have concerns or if there is family history of breast cancer. A part of this current campaign also involves free screenings and mammograms for several ladies based on clinical criteria.
The Nevis Maternal Health Fund is a local charity started by Dr Jessica Bardales in 2004 with a small group of dedicated volunteers / members. Dr Bardales has offered free screening and pelvic examinations on a Saturday, once a year since 2004 with the help of medical students from MUA and the NMHF members. While she has been doing her examinations some of the volunteers have been running a ‘Good as New’ stall and selling donated food items to swell the funds, which have proved to be very popular.
The NMHF has raised considerable funds to enhance the health and well being of women in Nevis. Some years ago it was able to purchase a modern delivery bed and 2for the maternity ward. 2 fetal heart monitors for maternity ward at Alexandra Hospital.
More recently it has funded equipment to diagnose and treat pre cancerous cervical conditions. It has also been helping enhance the hospital operating theatre storage and staff areas. The overall goal of the NMHF is the enhancement and wellbeing of the reproductive health of the women of Nevis. We thank you for your support over the years and remain committed to the cause.
Nurse Roxanne Brookes & Penny Avery
On Behalf of The Nevis Maternal Health Fund
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