Dr. Sharon Bauer: "Early diagnosis of breast cancer is key!"

News 2022
31 October 2022

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Rosebel Gold Mines N.V. (RGM) implemented an awareness campaign during the month of October with a focus on providing information on breast cancer. We also initiated a special mammography screening project for the female employees within Rosebel, in collaboration with the Radiology Department of the Academic Hospital Paramaribo (AZP). The purpose of mammography is to detect and treat possible symptoms at an early stage, before it becomes difficult or impossible.

To learn more about breast cancer and possible preventive measures, we interviewed our occupational physician Doctor Sharon Bauer. In the interview below, she also discusses RGM's health policy regarding Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Why is there so much attention paid to NCDs within RGM?

"The term NCDs, or noncommunicable diseases, refers to a group of conditions that are not primarily caused by acute infection. Acute disease symptoms are those that occur suddenly with severe symptoms and where you need immediate medical intervention, for example, appendicitis or chest pain. So those are not NCDs. NCDs are conditions that have long-term adverse health effects and often create a need for long-term treatment and care. These conditions include cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease. NCDs are the leading cause of death worldwide and in Suriname, and pose a serious health threat. In fact, we expect a 50% to 60% increase in cancer cases worldwide in the next 20 years. If we look at the situation in Suriname, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death and cancer is in 2nd place. For Rosebel, we want to know if the national figure matches our statistics and thus reflects our workforce. Medical data is relevant in different situations, but especially since we are far away from Paramaribo, where acute care is provided. In cases where we need to act quickly on-site, it is important to have the right medication on hand, but the analytics are important not only for acute but also preventive care. Periodic medical screening and testing for health parameters allows us to adjust our health policy accordingly."

  1. What is causing such a large increase in cancer cases?

"The increase is due to the aging of the global population, but also due to changes in our lifestyle and eating habits. Many of us are consuming far too many processed foods. These are foods with highly processed ingredients that have a negative impact on our weight, blood sugar and blood pressure. There are several risk factors in cancer:

  1. Non-controllable: age, gender, genetic (hereditary), ethnicity
  2. Controllable: smoking, alcohol, lifestyle, certain infections caused by certain viruses and bacteria such as HPV (human papillomavirus), HBV (hepatitis B virus), HCV (hepatitis C virus), and HEP (helicobacter pylori= stomach bacteria).

Breast cancer is mainly about ethnicity and genetics, but in all cancers our diet plays an important role. Over 40% of cancers are preventable if we work on the controllable factors."

  1. Why is breast cancer screening in women so important?

"Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and with cancer, early detection is key! Often enough, we are too late with the diagnosis because people don't visit their doctors until the advanced stages. If the tumor has already metastasized, you have almost no chance of survival. Through regular breast screening we can detect breast cancer early. Although there is no population screening and we do not have sufficient figures, we do know that cancer is still a taboo subject for many people. Therefore, we try as much as possible to provide information about it. Apart from taboo, there is often fear and shame. Some people first try oso-dresi (home remedies) when they notice symptoms. There is also little education about the topic. As a result, many people are not aware of the symptoms and are not so quick to go to the doctor."

  1. Are all breast abnormalities an indication of breast cancer?

"An abnormality on the breasts does not necessarily mean that you have breast cancer. That's why examination is very important. There are several possible symptoms of breast cancer:

- A lump in the breast

- A retracted nipple

- Fluid discharge from the nipple

- Changes to the nipple, such as swelling, redness, skin flaking, scaling or a spot that looks like eczema

- Dents in the skin of the breast

- Wounds on the skin of the breast that do not heal

- Swelling in the armpit.

These abnormalities can also have a cause other than cancer. For example, hormonal imbalance in women can also cause discharge from the nipples, but as soon as there is discharge, action should be taken right away for a lab test, ultrasound or mammogram to get a clearer picture. The sooner the diagnosis can be done, the sooner the start of treatment and the greater the survival rate."