Say Tola joined the Pink October celebration at Koh Pich last weekend where more than a thousand women got free consultation with medical experts and joined the Pink Walk organised by AIA Cambodia, to educate and raise awareness on the prevalence and perils of breast cancer in the kingdom.
Thun Thi, 56, sat patiently as she waited for her turn. There were hundreds of women in the place, all of them are there for one purpose – free breast cancer screening.
Ms Thi shared that she travelled from Kampong Chhnang province, about 94 kilometers from the capital city of Phnom Penh. But travelling for two hours and waiting for her turn to talk to experts were nothing compared finally knowing her health condition.
“Living in a place that’s far from the town center, I really did not know where to consult or get a check-up so I’d know the condition of my health. I was also very worried that if I go to hospitals or health centers, they would charge too much. I have been feeling some kind of pain in a part of my breast for years now. So, when I heard of the free consultation here in Phnom Penh, I decided to come and talk to experts. I badly need to make sure that nothing is wrong with me.”
Ms Thi, along with several other women, came for the ‘Fit for Hope’ breast cancer programme organised by AIA Cambodia on October 20.
AIA Cambodia, one of the country’s leading life insurance providers, took the initiative to celebrate the Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Pink October and give more than 1,300 women in Cambodia an opportunity to meet medical experts and know their health conditions.
This year’s Pink October celebrate drew more participants, as last year’s event only attracted 300 people. AIA Cambodia said the event raised at total of USD30,000 for the breast cancer programme of Sihanouk Hospital Centre of Hope.
In Cambodia, breast cancer is the second most common type after cervical cancer. Every year, an average of 1200 new cases are reported, according to the figures presented by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Mr Richard Bates, CEO of AIA Cambodia, said that Fit for Hope’s objective is to bring awareness that breast cancer is not only a subject to be talked about and then be avoided later. The illness affects everyone, not just women, and it should be addressed properly and openly.
“Men can choose not to have a daughter and a wife, but you still have your mother. In the family, women play crucial and important roles. If they get sick, the problem will be contagious and it will affect everyone,” noted Mr Bates.
“Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in Cambodia. It is easy to detect and women themselves can start having self check-up, too. It is the goal of AIA to help people live healthier and longer lives. We want to bring awareness that they have to consult experts before they acquire the illness or before it gets worse.”
But in a conservative society such as Cambodia, tackling breast cancer issue in a public platform seems a little unusual. Women find it hard to take opportunities to have themselves properly examined because they might be judged in one way or another.
With AIA’s ‘Fit for Hope’ programme, many women have been encouraged to educate themselves on the symptoms and preventions of the fatal breast cancer.
Aside from the free consultations, women – as well as men and children – also joined the Pink Walk, zumba dance and concert at Koh Pich.