19 May 2010

Surgeon says more awareness of breast cancer is needed in Pacific countries

11:28 am on 19 May 2010

A semi-retired breast surgeon says more awareness of breast cancer is needed in Tonga and other Pacific countries in a bid to try and lower the mortality rate.

Dr Paul Kitchen of St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne says collectively Polynesian countries have a high death rate from breast cancer probably due to the late detection of the disease, among other factors.

He says some 43% of all breast cancer sufferers in Polynesia will die from the disease compared to just 22 % in Australia and an overall 36% death rate for the world.

On a visit to Tonga this month he gave a lecture on breast cancer after being told that a high percentage of people are suspected to have died from it.

"Breast awareness is important and the fact that they can talk about their breasts. The fact that even that, they've been reluctant apparently in that community. And that's what the Tongan Breast Cancer Society is trying to do to dispel some of the myths and to encourage people to be aware of their breasts and aware of any change that occurs in their breasts and not to delay when they notice something."

Dr Kitchen says he advises Pacific people to seek medical help sooner if they notice any symptoms, create a cancer registry in a bid to get some official statistics, and research other treatment options available overseas.