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DILI - N ational and international breast cancer specialists and health professionals will meet today at the Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, to launch a major health program to help improve breast cancer awareness, early detection and care for women in Timor-Leste.
In launching the project, Minister of Health, Dr Rui de Araujo, said:
“Breast cancer is a critical health priority for Timor-Leste. This project, for the first time, brings together our major national and international health partners, breast cancer specialists and health professionals – particularly from Australia - to specifically focus on improving breast cancer awareness, early detection, diagnosis and palliative care in Timor-Leste”.
With the funding support of Perth-based, Annie Millicent ChildCare Foundation, the ‘Improving Breast Cancer Outcomes in Timor-Leste’ project will bring together the Ministry of Health’s key health partners, including the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), Cuban Medical Brigade and the Alola Foundation, to improve breast cancer awareness and control in Timor-Leste. It will also explore links with major Australian breast cancer support organisations, including the Breast Cancer Network Australia and the (Australian) Foundation for Breast Cancer Care.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers in women worldwide, with the highest cancer-related mortality – but with education and early detection, it is also one of the most curable. However, in Timor-Leste, the vast majority of women across the country present with very advanced, late stage breast cancer, if at all – well beyond the potential for curative treatment.
“With over 80% mortality rates in breast cancer cases - compared to 10% in developed countries – public awareness, early detection, improved diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care are urgent and critical health priorities for Timor-Leste”, said Professor Christobel Saunders, a RACS breast cancer specialist from the University of Western Australia and President of the Australia and New Zealand Breast Surgical Society.
Timor-Leste’s breast cancer education, early detection, diagnostic services, treatment and palliative care programs are largely limited or absent. While the Alola Foundation’s small, volunteer-based Haliku’, established in 2014 by Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, delivers vital breast education and health programs and cancer support for women - it currently operates in just 5 villages.
“Breast cancer public awareness is definitely increasing through the success of the ‘Haliku’ program – and we urgently need to expand these efforts, particularly in rural areas”, said Maria Guterres, Manager of the Alola Foundation’s Maternal and Child Health program. ”But we not only have to improve health outcomes and care for breast cancer patients, we also need to provide education and support for their families.”
In addition to the expansion of the ‘Haliku’ program, the 2-year project will also develop a national, audio-visual, media and public awareness campaign on breast cancer early detection; train local health workers to deliver training in breast health and early detection; prepare a national, comprehensive, 3-year action plan for breast cancer control in Timor-Leste; and develop vital support and information resources for women and their families affected by breast cancer.
With this commitment, the project represents a major step by the Government of Timor-Leste, with the support of its national and international health partners, to significantly and dramatically improve breast cancer outcomes, and the health and well-being of women in Timor-Leste. (pr)