The month of October is here again and as accustomed to the month, it is a period of drawing attention to breast cancer disease; rallying support for early detection, treatment as well as palliative care of the disease.
The month is symbolised by the colour pink to express support for women suffering from breast cancer which is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide, both in developed and developing countries.
The disease which develops in the breast tissue with signs including lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid coming from the nipple, inverted nipple and a red or scaly patch of the skin, is said to kill about 458,000 women each year.
Majority of these deaths (269,000) are said to occur in low and middle income countries, where most women with breast cancer are diagnosed in late stages due mainly to lack of awareness on early detection and barriers to health services.
In Ghana, the National Strategy for Cancer Control programme (2014-2017) indicates that seven out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year will die from the disease compared to two out of 10 women in developed countries like the United States of America.
A latest report released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) states that breast cancer cases have risen from a little over 2,900 in 2012 to more than 4,600 in 2018, with 1,800 women likely to lose their lives to the disease.
Indeed, there is a rising trend of young girls between ages 13 to 20 contracting the disease in the country which hitherto was diagnosed among women 43 years and above.
Currently, there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, however, available data points to the fact that limited access to timely diagnosis and treatment are largely accountable for the rise in deaths.
It is in this vein that the Ghanaian Times takes a serious view on the need to intensify public sensitisation, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas on the disease which remains a major public health threat.
There are still a lot of superstitious perceptions surrounding the disease with women seeking healing and assistance from prayer camps, herbalists and resorting to all kinds of self-medication, rather than reporting early to a health facility upon noticing abnormality on the breast.
The fear of stigmatisation or public ridicule, as husbands reportedly abandon their wives because of the disease still hangs on and which is why we must accelerate efforts to reverse the situation and save the lives of many innocent women and girls.
Early detection of breast cancer remains key in managing and controlling the disease and we cannot relent in empowering women to detect early symptoms of breast cancer for prompt treatment.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) encourages countries to put in place comprehensive breast cancer control programmes as part of National Cancer Control Plans, to tackle the disease and we appeal to the government to take immediate steps to bridge geographical and financial gaps in access to treatment.
As it stands now, treatment which is mainly by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy in few hospitals are mainly located in urban centres and inaccessible to most women with the dieses as the National Health Insurance Card only caters for a little percentage of cost of treatment for the disease.
The Ghana Health Service and Ministry of Health must endeavour to implement the right policies that would ensure effective treatment of breast cancers across the country as it strives to achieve universal health coverage.
Also of importance is that husbands must also provide the needed support to their wives in case they test positive for the disease because that is the period they are needed most to ensure a successful treatment process.
We must all join the cause to prevent breast cancer.