By Annette Chrysostomou
THE survival rates of women with breast cancer treated in a proper breast clinic are 30 per cent higher than the chances for those who don’t have access to such a facility, and thus the official opening of the new breast unit on November 1 in Nicosia is an important milestone, advocacy group Europa Donna announced.
“We have asked for this new centre at the Nicosia General Hospital for many years,” Louiza Poly from Europa Donna said, “Finally the political decision was made to open it.”
The equipment has been around, as have the staff. The big difference is that they will now use a multidisciplinary approach, something the European Union aims at for its member states.
“Several people meet each week to discuss each case separately and evaluate the treatment,” Poly added, “the surgeon who does all the surgeries, a plastic surgeon, an oncologist and a radiotherapist.”
As well, someone from the Bank of Cyprus oncology centre is present, as the hospital unit closely cooperates with the centre. The new unit treats all women who have breast cancer, early and advanced stages. But all treatment does not necessarily take place under one roof.
Some women are diagnosed with cancer and after receiving the results of the biopsy, decide to have surgery in private clinics or abroad.
This is not about money for equipment and staff. “What we aim for is quality care for all women,” the Europa Donna officer explained, “what is important to have the multidisciplinary aspect which has not been in place before.”
There are EU guidelines that need to be followed and it is Europa Donna’s task to make sure they are. There should be one clinic for 250 to 300 patients, and in Cyprus there are currently 150 new ones every year, thus one clinic is enough for the whole island.
The surgeon who is in charge should perform at least 100 surgeries per year and needs to attend seminars, while equipment should be continuously updated and the radiologists, of whom there need to be at least two in each unit should perform at least 1,000 radiological screenings per year.
For the first time this year, Europa Donna did not have to fight for the opening at the centre and when they organised the yearly annual pink silhouette march for the 11th time this October they were able to concentrate on spreading awareness and offer support under the motto “We walk for all the women in our lives”.
“Cyprus is very close to reaching the 80 per cent survival rate, which is the percentage in developed countries, and this is thanks to enlightenment, awareness, early diagnosis, improved drugs, new treatments and expertise in the fight against breast cancer,” Europa Donna’s president Evi Papadopoulou said.
According to the advocacy group women are happy with the changes and more and more hear about the centre and take advantage of it. People who have been there agree. “They are indeed up-to-date,” one woman said, “and when I talked to my doctor I found that he had been to many congresses.” “I felt well looked after,” another one commented, “they follow up with tests better than I would myself.”
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women and the leading cause of death. Twenty per cent of women are diagnosed with it before the age of 40. However, new drugs and new exams save 30 to 40 per cent of women from having to undergo chemotherapy.
Europa Donna also operates two programmes “Breast Friends” and “Support”.
The first offers special bras and support from specialist nurses and the second aims at the best possible psychological and emotional support for women and men with breast cancer and their families.