Cancer advocacy group reaches out to Dalat


THE Society for Cancer Advocacy and Awareness Kuching (SCAN), in collaboration with Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG), recently carried out another breast cancer health screening outreach programme.

This time, it took place at Sungai Kut in Dalat, coinciding with the celebration of the annual Pesta Kaul, which kicked off on June 1.

Almost 100 villagers turned up at the Sungai Kut community hall, where the Minister for Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Sarawak Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah officiated at the event.

Five nurses from Dalat Health Clinic took charge of the health screening, which included blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol tests.

Matron Kamariah of SBCSG helps out a villager in filling out the registration form.

Former Sarawak Health Department director Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan was also present, where he ran personalised diagnoses and general health counselling to those coming for the screening.

Moreover, women who exhibited abnormal findings after having undergone clinical breast examination, were re-examined using a portable hand-held ultrasound machine donated by the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

This specialised procedure was performed by Dr Sharifah Ashina Wan Ali, a breast surgeon from Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) in Kuching.

Among these women, one came with a result of suspicious finding – she was then referred to Sibu Hospital for mammogram and biopsy, as the equipment to facilitate mammography at Bintulu Hospital was out of commission.

Fatimah, flanked by Dayang Mariani (front, fourth left) and Juriah, in a group photo with SCAN and SBCSG members, as well as representatives of Dalat District Office and the villagers.

As with the previous programmes, SCAN advisor Datin Dayang Mariani Abang Zain also joined the team at Sungai Kut, where she held an interactive session with the village womenfolk, sharing with them her journey as a breast cancer survivor.

Dr Sharifah Ashina also delivered a presentation on breast cancer and breast health to those present.

As part of its advocacy work, SCAN also documented the project to highlight the gaps and challenges faced by the marginalised populations.

Five breast cancer survivors and two caregivers were interviewed during the programme, and they shared their experience after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Villagers await their turns for the general health screening, and breast check-ups for the womenfolk.

Most of the survivors were diagnosed during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, in force during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. This, and the delay as well as the challenges that they face during these times, were among the things that they highlighted during the sharing-session.

The caregivers interviewed also spoke about their challenges with regard to financial aid and logistics issues, which required them to take unpaid leave to accompany their wives during treatment.

These interviews and the final video would be shared on various international platforms to highlight the cancer care gaps faced by various indigenous communities in Sarawak.

Filming of one of the interviews in progress.

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), based in Switzerland, supported both the video production and breast cancer outreach led by project leader and SCAN committee member Dr Melissa Lim, while the breast examination was led by Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG) president Datin Juriah Sulehan.

As the project coincided with Pesta Kaul, the team members were also able to experience the traditional festival of the pagan Melanaus and a chance to understand more about the culture, challenges and barriers that this ethnic group was currently facing.

This outreach programme was hailed as a success and preparations were already underway for the next outreach at Rumah Untang in Ulu Kapit, scheduled to be carried out by the end of this month.

With the SCAN programme coinciding with the Pesta Kaul at Sungai Kut, the participants get to witness the traditional heritage of the Melanau community in the area.