Jamaican women doing mammograms too late, says expert

Head of the Mammography Unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Derria Cornwall, is arguing that Jamaicans’ failure to get tested has resulted in 70 per cent of breast cancer diagnoses being done late.

Cornwall, speaking on Tuesday at the Universal Service Fund’s forum Positively Pink at the PCJ Auditorium in New Kingston, St Andrew, implored Jamaican women to get tested to reduce the risks associated with the disease.

Using actual mammogram photographs to strengthen her position, Cornwall said once women reach 40 years old, they should start doing their mammography regularly and at 30 years old if there is a family history of cancer.

Expert advice

She said that with the cancer gene, women should start doing their mammography 10 years earlier than when the last person in the family was diagnosed with the disease.

“Some cancers start by looking like grains of salt.”

— Dr Derria Cornwall

While women should conduct their own breast examination, Cornwall said that those within the risk age should also get the mammogram done to get expert advice.

“The mammogram is the tool we use to detect breast cancers early. Some cancers start by looking like grains of salt. If it is that you sprinkle some grains of salts in your breast and try to feel them, no you won’t,” Cornwall said.

Jamaican statistic understated

“When it is looking like grains of salt, the only thing that can pick those up is the mammogram. If you wait until it becomes a lump and go and get the mammograms done, we will not be looking at that lump again. We are doing the mammogram to look at the rest of the breast to see that nothing else is hiding.”

According to Cornwall, the Jamaican statistic of 43 out of every 100,000 being afflicted might be understated, as she said that the study was done only in Kingston.

She argues that when a similar study is done in rural Jamaica, it might bring the statistics closer to the global level of one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer.