PREVENTION OF BREAST CANCER DEATHS—EARLY DETECTION AND TREATMENT REMAINS KEY

By Doris Sodjah

More than one million women, worldwide, are diagnosed each year with breast cancer, over half the number of who die from the disease.

 

 

Breast cancer — characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the milk producing glands of the breast or in the passages (ducts) that deliver milk to the nipples—is the common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in women.

 

With 2,900 cases diagnosed annually, a prevalence rate of approximately 17 per cent and one in eight women diagnosed dying from it, breast cancer has become the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Ghana.

 

Most women with breast cancer have little or no knowledge about the disease due to lack of awareness creation about the disease and, therefore, attribute the disease to superstition and seek healing and assistance from prayer camps, herbalists or resort to self-medication, rather than reporting early to a health facility.

 

Breast cancer patients refuse to report symptoms of the disease or even discuss it with relatives for fear of stigmatization or public ridicule.

 

Thus in addition to rushing to the hospital at the acute stages of the disease, there is also the challenge of lack of proper medications and health care delivery, resulting in preventable deaths.

 

Early detection of breast cancer, therefore, remains key to managing and controlling the disease.

 

Recently, Roche, the world’s largest biotech company and the Government of Ghana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer.

 

The MOU is a comprehensive agreement designed to build disease awareness, improve diagnostics, train healthcare professionals and provide access to innovative treatments.

 

It also includes referrals pathways to tertiary centres and access to treatment for breast cancer under the National Health Insurance Scheme.

 

This is a step in the right direction and if well-strategized could address the challenges of treating breast cancer cases in Ghana.

 

The Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service should take advantage of this MoU to intensify its efforts at controlling the spread of the disease nationwide—and this could be done by educating women in both urban and rural areas.

 

Education about the disease should be massive in the rural communities because most delayed reported cases of breast cancer emerge from these communities.

 

Health workers must be given the necessary training and expertise to care for breast cancer patients while health care facilities such as the Community Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) must be well-equipped and adequately resourced in order to be able to effectively and promptly respond to breast cancer cases.

 

Certainly, with all these measures in place and women encouraged to report signs of suspected breast cancer cases early to the nearest health centre for treatment, the lives women would be saved from preventable deaths.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                 

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