Using Support Groups To Address Breast Cancer Menace

Breast_cancerLast year, I recalled the story of an agonising young breast cancer patient. She was 31year-old. She has passed on since, leaving behind a spouse also in his thirties and a 2year-old child. I recounted how the couple disappeared about 2years ago after learning that the woman had breast cancer in the left breast and needed surgical removal of the breast.

This was to be followed by adjuvant chemo/radiotherapy. The lady finally went back to a health facility for interventions recommended two years ago but unfortunately it was too late for her.

She was in tears in her last days because she realized her folly too late in spite of her very good educational background. It is very easy to write off her actions as ‘stupidity’. What is clear to many campaigning against breast cancer in the country is that notwithstanding the increased awareness about breast cancer, there are still myths and misconceptions about the disease and cancers in general.

I am sure as a reader you would be asking yourself several questions? Why would an educated person behave the way she did? At the time I noticed a smartphone in her hand which she could have used to I know the interventions recommended to her by the doctor. I believe she would have found out the danger in delaying treatment for breast cancer and all cancers.

In her case it was not an issue of cost because the establishment she was affiliated with provided free medical service for its workers. Was it then the fear of loss of the breast?

Was it pressure from the spouse? In this instance, did her spouse support her refusal to undergo medical treatment? I believe it goes way deeper than this. I learnt later that the couple sought ‘help’ from various sources because they believed it was spiritual. If it was spiritual then only ‘spiritual solutions could address the issue.

This is where we need breast cancer survivors to step out and support newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. I recall a case sometime ago where a young lady diagnosed with breast cancer was in denial. She was young and pretty in a high-flying job. She just could not come to terms with the recent finding in her left breast and breast removal as part of interventions recommended by the doctor.

A call was placed to someone who was a volunteer breast cancer survivor to support such persons through breast cancer diagnosis and management. The survivor was about 60 years but still good-looking. Her opening remarks were ‘my dear daughter, you are not alone. You are not the first and certainly would not be the last to be diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 60 years now but diagnosed with breast cancer about 25 years ago.”

At that point she opened her dress for the young lady to see. The young lady was stunned! She had her breast removed as recommended at the time to save her life. Initially she was in shock but reckoned there was so, much life ahead of her. She considered her decision at the time  to be one of the most important steps in her life and family.

I believe we need more of such persons in the country in our fight against breast cancer. I should quickly add that it is not every case of breast cancer that results in breast removal. A number of cases are still seen late and therefore the recourse sometimes to this action.

We are still seeing cases of suspicious breast disorders on our screening programmes. I believe many campaigners against breast cancer (Cancer Society of Ghana, The Breasted One, Reach For Recovery, etc) will attest to this.

The PLEDGE PINK initiative by the UT  Bank and Cancer Society of Ghana (CSG) continues to make inroads in attracting corporate support for breast cancer control in Ghana.

In spite of the seemingly increased awareness there are still a lot of people to cover. A case in point is the experience at this year’s JOY-FM EASTER SOUP Kitchen where the CSG, The Breasted One and Pledge Pink screened hundreds of persons at the function. Some were found with suspicious breast disorders.

Significantly such persons were unaware of the implications of the breast disorders. But checks later such people  will be seen very late at health facilities. The affected persons will be in denial due to misconceptions and myths. The consequences are what I referred to at the beginning of this piece.

Over the past two years, the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC) has dwelt on efforts to break down misconceptions and myths about cancer as its main theme on World Cancer Day.

Last year’s World Cancer, Day was themed, “Dispelling Damaging Myths and Misconceptions on Cancer” while this year’s was “Debunk the myths- Cancer is preventable and curable”.  The story shared at the beginning of this piece reinforces the choice of the themes.

It is still important to stress that the key to effective strides against cancer is commitment to prevention and early detection. This is clearly affirmed by a press release issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on February 3, 2014 through the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The release coincided with the publication of the third World Cancer Report 2014, by the IARC.  It states among others that the Global battle against cancer will not be won with treatment alone, notwithstanding advances in medicines.

There was the urgent need for more commitment to prevention and early detection in order to complement improved treatment besides addressing the alarming rise in cancer burden” says Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC.

It is, therefore, heartening to learn of the Community Breast Health Promoters training being conducted by the Breast Care International (BCI).

It is a move that could be leveraged to our fight against other cancers in the country including cancer of the cervix, prostate cancer, gastro-intestinal cancers and liver cancer, cancer of the blood and childhood cancer which are all described as priority cancers under our National Strategy for Cancer Control (2011-2015) Indeed “together we can overcome cancer”.

By Edward O. Amporful

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