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Oct 8, 2020

Healthy Living: Breast Cancer Awareness

In a typical October, we would be reporting on awareness and educational activities being held around the situation of breast cancer in Belize. The Belize Cancer Society is still commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness – albeit without the usual mass gathering event. In tonight’s healthy living, we find out that there is still a lot to be concerned about when it comes to breast cancer in this country and why all adult women need to be checking their breasts.


Ramon Yacab, Oncologist, K.H.M.H.

Every day, we have new cases.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

That is the case report of Oncologist Dr. Ramon Yacab, who works at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Even as the country – and the world – continually tracks daily COVID numbers. The cases of cancer in Belize are simultaneously rising.


Ramon Yacab

Ramon Yacab

“I mean, during a one-year period, we saw over three hundred cases new of cancer for the country. And, if I want to go a bit more closer to that, in a month’s time, we see over thirty cases, thirty to forty cases of different types of cancer. The leading one, here at the hospital, would be breast cancer.”


The situation of breast cancer in Belize in concerning, as this form of cancer accounts for almost half of the newly detected cases. For Dr. Yacab, it’s not just the number of cases that are worrisome but the age of the people they are diagnosing.


Ramon Yacab

“There is an increase in the younger population, and by young, I mean lesser than forty-year-old females. They are accounting for a fourth of all the patients we see with breast cancer. If we compare it with other countries, it would generally be less than ten percent. So we are seeing a higher amount of younger patients with breast cancer. Not only that, when we compare with other countries, for example, like the US, breast cancer is expected to be in patients over the age of sixty – that’s the higher population range. Most of our patients are between the ages of thirties up to sixties. Patients over sixty accounts for a lesser amount. For some reason, the patients who are younger, tend to come with a higher stage—either a stage three or at a four. Meanwhile, the patients above the age of fifty or sixty tend to seek medical attention a little bit faster. The early breast cancer we are getting is generally in the patients above the age of sixty.”


Early detection, in the case of breast cancer, is a significant factor in treatment and prognosis.


Ramon Yacab

“In stage one, the patient has a survival rate of over ninety percent over five years. In developed countries, it could be ninety-eight percent at five years. Stage two would be roughly about eighty-five percent of survival at five years. When we talk about stage three, that’s when it decreases to sixty to seventy percent and a stage four patient has a survival rate of less than twenty percent at five years.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Is that taking into account the level of treatment and diagnosis available in Belize?”


Ramon Yacab

“Yes, that takes into account treatment. When a patient is diagnosed with an early stage, they may only require surgery depending on the size of the tour and other characteristics from the tutor itself. And or chemo if needed. Even if they were to go abroad, that would be the only treatment that they would actually need.”


Cancers in stages three and four that have spread to other parts of the body often require radiation – which is not available in Belize. In some patients, they may be too advanced for surgical treatment.


Ramon Yacab

“We’ve had a few patients who were in their twenties with breast cancer and if we talk about breast cancer, the young twenties, and thirties. Who loses their life, yes. The emotional and psychological burden is high. I would like for everyone with early-stage breast cancer where we can actually do a lot for them, but for those who we can’t, it takes a very large emotional toll. What we try to do is integrate palliative care and give comfort to the patient and the family. Cause even though there may not be a cure, we can certainly offer them comfort. 14.01


It is essential to know your risks for developing breast cancer. Being a woman is one, although men can get breast cancer too. Being overweight or obese, lack of exercise, having a family history of cancer, your reproductive history, and for us, in Belize, even our ethic make up make us more susceptible to breast cancer. And while age is a risk factor, based on what he sees in the hospital, Dr. Yacab encourages all women over the age of eighteen to check their breast monthly and visit a doctor if they detect changes.


Ramon Yacab

“Even if you are under the age of forty, it does not mean that cancer will not be there. Seek medical attention. It’s better to do tests that are necessary, and we go from there.”


And finally, Yacab urges doctors to include clinical breast exams in check-ups, even in the younger population.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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