Doctors and hospital officials highlighted the need for women to check their breasts for cancer at a seminar Friday and encouraged them to come to Phnom Penh for free screening if they have any concerns about abnormalities or are at higher risk due to their age.
Dr. Preap Ley, the surgical director at the Sihanouk Hospital Center of Hope, said the likelihood of being able to successfully treat breast cancer is much higher if it is caught early. But detection for breast cancer—the most common cancer in Cambodia—is reliant on a number of factors, he said.
“It’s up to education, up to the women, the clinics, the examinations and the imaging tests.”
Leaflets handed out Friday detail how women can carry out self-examinations at home to check for discoloration, lumps, dimpling or other signs of abnormality.
But some women wait until it’s too late. During the seminar, participants were shown images of women who only decided to seek medical treatment once their breast cancers had advanced to the point of becoming deeply deformed, blackened masses on their chests.
Jason Reinhardt, the hospital’s executive director, said the aim is to not only encourage women to check themselves, but to be aware that they can receive free mammograms and treatment at the hospital.
“With ultrasounds, there is not always an exact diagnosis,” he said, which is why the clearer images taken by the digital mammogram at the hospital can help in detection.
The hospital is also hoping to address the issue with a team of peer educators who have survived breast cancer and are therefore well-positioned to support women who may have doubts about seeking treatment.
“Women here do not prioritize their own health,” said Ellen Maling, the hospital’s manager of strategic initiatives. “The greatest impact from the peer educators is that they can speak from experience and gain trust.”