Left to right: Kimiko Phornprapha, Mamoru Morata, Shigeo Hayakawa, Keisuke Karaki,
Maynica Sachdev, Fumito Kawaii, Chayaporn Phornprapha, Kiwamu Honda,
Dr Mitsue Saito and Dr Kris Chatamra
To celebrate 130 years of Thai Japanese diplomatic relations in 2017, the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer (QSCBC) and Foundation organised a combined breast cancer seminar with the Japanese Embassy. The symposium took place over two days on July 16-17, with lectures presented by the invited speakers Professor Mitsue Saito, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Professor Kris Chatamra and members of staff of the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer Centre (QSCBC). The meeting was attended by members of the Japanese community and doctors from hospitals across Thailand. The event was supported by H.E. Mr. Shiro Sadoshima, Ambassador of Japan, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan, Keisuke Karaki, Shigeo Hayakawa, CEO of Yamaha Mamoru Morota, Fuji Film and Chayaporn Phornprapa, MD of Mazda.
The Slum Outreach Project Screening for Breast and Cervical Cancer Project for the underprivileged. The QSCBC has been operating a breast and screening project in the slums of greater Bangkok for nearly twenty years. The project, which relies on donations, visits different slum communities, taking place over two days, every four months and out of normal QSCBC clinic hours. The QSCBC medical and nursing team visits the slum communities, registering and teaching the women about the risks of breast and cervical cancer on the first day and always working alongside an organisation that is based in the community, to ensure that the candidates are genuinely in need of help.
A questionnaire has been designed to assess how much the women understand about breast and cervical cancer before the teaching session and it is given again afterwards to check that the women fully understand the information. The youngest teenagers are very much welcomed to teaching sessions, to bring awareness of these two cancers and offer cervical pap smears if appropriate. On the second day, the women are brought to the QSCBC hospital by coach.
One hundred women can be given a medical examination, breast ultrasounds and mammography, if they are forty years and over. The limit of time needed to carryout the full breast tests limits the numbers of women that can be examined in a day. Many more of the younger women can be examined, because they only require cervical examinations and pap smears which needless time to administer. Occasionally if breast symptoms are in evidence, breast screening will be offered in case further investigation is needed. All the women receive cervical pap smears, bone density and other basic health checks. The Thai speaking breast cancer support group, Friend to Friend and the English speaking, Bangkok Breast Cancer Support Group are active helpers of the project.
The women are encouraged to bring their children and a team of both Thai and expat volunteers organise play activities. All the funds are raised for the breast and cervical screening with support from many organisations and individuals, including Club Canada, The American Women’s group and the International Women’s Club. As many of the women live an almost subsistence existence, food and drinks are given throughout the day and taken home, to alleviate the worry of feeding their families. Professional beautician’s also volunteer their services to offer the women cosmetic makeovers and massages while they wait to be examined.
Despite the medical tests, the aim is to create a fun and positive atmosphere, which will have the additional benefit of encouraging the women to tell their neighbours to join the project in the future. Breast cancer for many women in these communities has always equated with a death sentence, with so many of the women not having access to screening in time. Many of the women hide their tumours out of fear.
According to Sister Joan Evans, who lived and worked in the slums of Klong Toey for 30 years, before the QSCBC and foundation project was started twenty years ago, I could only give a woman in her final hours, a bottle of rum to ease the agony of their untreated cancer. The screening project is key to offering these women a chance at early detection of cancer and treating the cases which are diagnosed. Pink Park hospice and convalescence home, being built by the QSCBC and Foundation, is desperately needed to servethese very poor patients.