Phnom Penh, 21 October 2017 – Every October, events are held across the world to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention and treatment. Here in Cambodia, AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) hosted the “Fit for Hope” event to support Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE (“SHCH”) in its efforts to raise awareness and provide treatment for breast cancer. SHCH is a non-profit hospital with the longest-running breast cancer program in Cambodia. The event, which was open to the public, took place at the Central Park Sports Complex at Boeung Kok, offering free breast cancer screenings and educational talks by health professionals from SHCH. It drew around 1,500 enthusiastic participants who enjoyed yoga and Zumba sessions, family games and activities, and healthy food and beverage options. In the evening, a benefit concert was performed by local artists Pich Sophea, Tep Boprek, Chet Kanchna, and SmallWorld SmallBand.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the world. In Cambodia, it has a relatively low survival rate due to a lack of awareness and information about early detection, diagnosis and options for treatment. "Many of our patients are already at a late stage of breast cancer when they come in, which makes it more difficult to treat successfully," said Dr. Preap Ley, Director of Surgery at SHCH. The medical team at “Fit for Hope” screened 174 women for breast cancer while giving guidance on self-examination and explaining how to minimise risk factors. Dr. Ley added, "There is a reluctance among Cambodian women to discuss their health concerns whether with their families or with doctors. We hope that this event has encouraged them to come forward, and will gain the understanding and support of their family members."
The information sharing sessions were particularly impactful. As peer educators from SHCH, seven breast cancer survivors spoke about their journeys from detection and diagnosis through to surgery and further treatment. As one of the survivors observed, "If my story can help another woman have the courage to go for a breast cancer check-up, then I am happy that I could help her."
“Fit for Hope” raised US$10,000 for SHCH which will go towards its breast cancer education and treatment programs. Dr. Ley says the event surpassed his expectations. "With this amount, we will be able to provide 1,000 women with Ultrasound/X-ray screening to detect and diagnose breast cancer, or educational materials to over 400,000 people." Dr. Ley was also pleased that his team was able to spread their message to so many families, and educate young and old about breast cancer. "Only with more awareness and information can we reduce the incidence of this disease, and increase the success rate of treatment," he said.
AIA Cambodia has previously held free health check sessions that have attracted around 2,000 participants. "When we saw how hundreds of people came, many travelling overnight from the provinces, just to receive these free health checks, we realised how important it is for us to continue to provide our support for those in need," said Richard Bates, Chief Executive Officer of AIA Cambodia. "Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE has been instrumental in educating communities and treating breast cancer so we wanted to do our part in supporting their efforts."
Mr. Bates highlighted the impact breast cancer can have on families, saying “Many families have been deeply affected by breast cancer when women have not received treatment early enough. At AIA we want to help ensure that Cambodian women and their families have access to the medical and financial support that they need to beat breast cancer and continue to lead healthy lives."
Dr. Ley concluded, "We are grateful to all participants for their kind donations, to AIA for championing our cause, and to those who have generously given their time and effort to make this event a success."
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About AIA Cambodia
AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIA Group Limited (“AIA” or “the Group”), the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group and the second largest life insurer in the world by market capitalisation.
The Group has a presence in 18 markets in Asia-Pacific – wholly-owned branches and subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, New Zealand, Macau, Brunei, Cambodia, a 97 per cent subsidiary in Sri Lanka, a 49 percent joint venture in India and a representative office in Myanmar. AIA is a market leader in the Asia-Pacific region (ex-Japan) based on life insurance premiums and holds leading positions across the majority of its markets. It had total assets of US$185 billion as of 30 November 2016. Through an extensive network of agents, partners and employees across Asia-Pacific, AIA serves the holders of more than 30 million individual policies and over 16 million participating members of group insurance schemes.
AIA Cambodia offers differentiated life insurance products and services to meet the growing need for financial protection and long-term savings of people in Cambodia. AIA Cambodia is committed to contributing to the kingdom’s economic and social development over the long term.
About Sihanouk Hospital
Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE (“SHCH”) started in 1996 with a mission to provide further education and training for medical professionals while delivering free, 24-hour high-quality medical care to the poor and disadvantaged of Cambodia. SHCH has contributed to better health outcomes for the poorest Cambodians, enabled livelihoods, trained a health professional workforce, and prevented needless suffering from illness and the economic hardship that accompanies it. SHCH receives over 39,000 patients each year, and by July 2017, SHCH has provided healthcare services to more than 1.3 million people in Cambodia.
SHCH has been running its Breast Cancer Initiative (BCI) since 2008. It is an internationally recognised innovative breast cancer program which spans the continuum of awareness-raising, screening and treatment. In 2016 alone, SHCH’s peer educators and nurses provided breast cancer education to over 10,000 women, linking them to care at SHCH when needed; 703 women were evaluated and screened for breast cancer; and 576 existing breast cancer patients continued to receive follow-up treatments. BCI receives the majority of its funding from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and AmeriCares; SHCH relies on individual donors and annual fundraising to provide the rest of the program’s funding.