Cancer society eyes digital equipment

Unit to aid breast cancer detection

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society took an important step down the road toward improved detection of breast cancer as it launched its Stride Against Cancer 2006 walk/run Tuesday, 13 December.

At the same time, the society announced plans to raise money to buy a state-of-the-art digital mammography unit, with the Stride the first event in that campaign.

The society has held 10 previous walk/runs but the 11th event has been rebranded with a new name and logo. The first annual Stride Against Cancer walk/run fundraiser is scheduled for 15 January.

Victor Opitz, chairman of the board of the society, explained the significance of the new fundraising goal.

‘The society’s members voted to lead the Cayman community in acquiring state-of-the-art mammogram technology that would put Cayman at the forefront of detecting breast cancer worldwide,’ he said.

Proceeds from the walk/run, which attracted more than 1,000 entrants last year, will be put toward the purchase of the new equipment, Mr. Opitz said.

In addition, the society will use its own funds to cover up to one-third of the cost of the equipment, he explained.

‘This initiative also includes a special partnership between the society and the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority for the ownership and maintenance of the equipments that will result in the establishment of a special fund to be called ‘Women Helping Women Memorial Fund’ in honour of Hilma Stephenson-McField, Dee Stephenson, Juliette Arch and Erma Douglas who, in 1982, formed a cancer patient support group that would one day become the CICS,’ Mr. Opitz said.

Pastor Al Ebanks, chairman of the board of the HSA, spoke of the importance of the cancer society’s work.

‘I want to express our sincere gratitude to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society for your commitment to the people of the Cayman Islands. We believe it is absolutely essential that we partner with the community. Health care is everyone’s business.

‘We are very, very pleased that we can start our new tenure as board members with a partnership with the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. None of us can do this alone,’ he said.


Representatives of the cancer society and the HSA signed a memorandum of understanding about their partnership in the ownership and maintenance of the digital equipment, which will improve detection techniques.

Dr. Sook Yin, medical director of the society, explained the advantages of the new technology.

‘Early detection is really the key to prolonging survival in cancer. The medical community is looking at breast cancer as one of the cancers we will be able to prevent in years to come.

‘This project is going to benefit our community as it will enhance screening and detection. It’s a quantum leap for us. It will take us to the next level in breast cancer detection,’ she said.

With digital mammography, the image is available instantly and can be retaken if necessary, Dr. Yin explained. The image can also be magnified, and the brightness and contrast adjusted.

‘The image can also be transmitted electronically for remote consultation by another radiologist,’ she explained.

In addition, the technology is more effective for women who are under 50 years old or who have dense breasts, she said, explaining that using conventional film on these latter patients is like photographing through dust.


Other benefits include needing less space for storing the images and the ability to screen more people.

‘As a doctor, I’m so excited about upgrading the equipment and as a woman I’m more excited. We want to screen everybody who can be screened to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. It’s a personal quest. We need to sing the song and shout out loud to get behind this fundraising initiative,’ she said.

The cost of a mammogram using the new technology will remain about the same at CI$150, with vouchers still available from the cancer society, she added.

Once the machine, which costs about US$300,000, is purchased, the Women Helping Women Fund will remain open, with money collected used to train technicians, upgrade equipment, ensure maintenance and buy other pieces of cancer-detecting equipment if necessary.

Christine Sanders, general manager of the cancer society, is encouraging the community to get involved in this fundraising initiative.

‘I am issuing a challenge to the community to donate funds. If we had our wish, Dr. Yin and I would have the funds raised in six months,’ she said.

Two individuals answered her call on the night. Brett Hill, member of the board of CICS and CEO of Fidelity Bank, handed over a check on behalf of the company’s staff.

In a poignant contribution to the fund, Dan Scott donated $25,000 on behalf of his wife, Lisa. Her mother, Juliette Arch, one of the founding members of the support group, lost her battle with breast cancer and the donation was made in her honour.

‘I have my wife and two little girls to look after. It is something worthwhile that we want to support,’ Mr. Scott said.

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