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‘Don’t attribute breast cancer to myths’

BY: Akwasi Ampratwum-Mensah
Dr Wiafe-Addai doing the presentation.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. Though  people are aware of breast cancer, a lot of them forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do  same.

During the period, organisations engaged in breast cancer sensitisation programmes in the country to intensify efforts to enlighten the public on the disease and encourage patients to seek early treatment.

This year, Reach for Recovery Ghana, a breast cancer support group, in collaboration with the Breast Clinic, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, will hold a day’s seminar on the theme, “Breast Cancer Information Day”, at the British Council in Accra on October 31.

Since 2011, Breastcare International, a non-governmental health organisation (NGO), has introduced an annual breast cancer walk that is held during the month of October, as part of the public sensitisation programme.

Breast cancer screening

Making a presentation during a two-week breast cancer screening and treatment programme at Bogoso in the Prestea/Huni-Valley District of the Western Region, the President of Breastcare International, Dr (Mrs) Beatrice Wiafe-Addai, advised both men and women to not attribute the disease to myths and misconceptions.

Medical attention

Rather, she said they should report any suspected tumours and lumps in their breasts to the hospitals for prompt medical attention.

"Breast cancer is not a spiritual menace. It is a disease, so go to hospital when you feel any unusual thing in your breasts because some come in when the disease has reached an advanced stage," she said.

Dr Wiafe-Addai, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Peace and Love Hospital in Kumasi, said breast cancer was a deadly disease and for every 69 seconds, it claimed the life of a woman, adding that most women who contracted the disease were below 50 years.

WHO records

She said World Health Organisation (WHO) records in 2002 indicated that the disease was killing more women than HIV and AIDS and malaria cases combined.

The programme was organised by the Golden Star Ladies Club of Golden Star Limited a mining company at Bogoso.

She observed that cancers were not considered as a priority issue  in the country but "We will continue to shout and shout until the government hears our voice. Some countries are without malaria cases but cancers continue to plague them."

Dr Wiafe-Addai explained that it was for that reason that since 2002, the NGO and the Peace and Love Hospital in Kumasi had taken it as a priority to create the necessary awareness, embark on screening exercises and provide treatment, including surgical operations for affected women.

Dr Wiafe-Addai said  men could have breast cancer and so if a man observed any little lump in his breast, he should quickly report to a health facility for proper examination and treatment.

She added that even though there were not enough mammograms for screening, "That did not mean that we should die from cancer of the breast. Early detection and prompt action meant prevention, since the cause of the disease was not yet known”.

The CEO said because symptoms of breast cancer were not as painful as tooth ache, women who were affected felt reluctant to report early to the hospital for the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Trained nurses

The medical practitioner said her hospital had so far trained about 100 nurses and intended to train more, who would be assisting in breast cancer awareness creation and treatment.

She explained that about 70 per cent of affected women ran away from surgery because they did not report early, saying that it was not the desire of the hospital authorities to remove the affected breast but they only resorted to that in extreme cases in order to save the life of the patient.