KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS) provided more than $5 million in small grants to vulnerable, newly diagnosed cancer patients last year to help them access treatment. During this period, the society provided mammography and prostate screenings, as well as pap smears, to over 20,000 individuals.

Executive Director for the JCS, Yulit Gordon, told JIS News that the entity is looking to raise even more funds this year, in order to strengthen its capacity to offer screenings and treatment support.

She was speaking at the annual Keeping Abreast luncheon held on Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

“The Keeping Abreast luncheon is the second-largest fundraiser for the society. The funds raised from this event are used to build the capacity of the Jamaica Cancer Society to deliver on its primary objectives of offering cancer screenings to vulnerable men and women living in under-served communities across the island, as well as contribute to the patient support fund, which affords small grants to vulnerable, newly diagnosed cancer patients to access treatment,” she noted. The annual Keeping Abreast luncheon is part of activities to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

The event, held in collaboration with Jamaica Reach to Recovery, also honours women who have survived the disease.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Jamaican women, with 30 out of every 100,000 over the age of 35 dying from the disease.

“It is most prevalent in women between the ages of 45 and 65 years. These are the most productive years of a woman’s life, professionally and in terms of family. According to the Ministry of Health, over 300 women are dying prematurely from the disease each year,” Gordon pointed out. She is urging women to be vigilant and do their annual mammography screening, and perform breast self-examinations every month and clinical evaluations annually to assess risk.

Persons with a strong family history of cancer should get mammography screenings at an earlier age, as they are at increased risk of developing the disease. The JCS offers mammography screening at a subsidised cost of $3,800.

JCS will be hosting its Pink Run on October 28 as part of its fundraising efforts. Relay for life, usually held in June, is the JCS’s premier fundraiser.