The First Lady, Mrs Lordina Dramani Mahama, has urged organisations that provide counselling and treatment to patients with breast cancer to help strengthen the government’s resolve to reduce its infection and death rate in the country.
This, when done, she said, would ensure that no woman died of breast cancer as a result of lack of adequate treatment, saying, “The nation needs our women to contribute to national development.”
Mrs Mahama made the call in a speech read on her behalf by the Minister of Tourism and Creative Arts, Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, in Accra at the launch of the Enidaso Healthcare Initiative in Accra yesterday.
The initiative, intended to address the challenges of treating breast cancer in Ghana ,was put together by AstraZeneca, a global research- based biopharmaceutical company.
The cancer burden in Ghana is increasing, with many women diagnosed only when the disease is advanced. This has been attributed to a combination of lack of awareness and access to routine mammography services, as well as cultural attitudes, although the lack of awareness is a critical factor.
Mrs Mahama also urged men to encourage women to examine their breasts for lumps, adding that early treatment was vital to preventing death as a result of breast cancer.
She said for lack of information and some cultural factors, women who were having breast cancer usually visited the clinic late, hence the Enidaso initiative, which is a good opportunity for more public education and awareness about breast cancer.
She also urged women to make an effort to examine their breasts for lumps, saying, “Take a decision to visit the hospital to be examined and encourage your female colleagues to check for lumps too,” she said.
She, therefore, urged more companies to follow the steps of AstraZeneca to address the emerging challenges with management of several diseases.
According to the AstraZeneca’s Vice-President for Sub-Sahara Africa, Mr Karl Friberg, the initiative is a partnership with two international cancer-focused organisations that would work to facilitate getting women with breast cancer through the already overburdened healthcare system in the country.
These women when identified, he said, would be offered treatment, not only medically but also they would be taken through counselling, reassurance, and support.
“The ‘Enidaso’ initiative will initially emphasize education and support for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, including volunteers, rather than patients themselves,” he added.
Mr Friberg further said the initiative was sustainable, saying, “We are not simply donating a whole lot of medicines and then stepping back; rather, we’ll be providing our cancer treatments at greatly reduced prices, and this will ensure that ‘Enidaso’ can continue to fund itself,” he stated.
In a speech read on her behalf, the Minister of Health, Ms Sherry Ayittey, said currently, 39 per cent of deaths were attributable to non-communicable diseases, with cancer accounting for six per cent of all mortality.
Breast cancer, she said, presented a particular challenge as it was underserviced, especially in the rural areas, adding to the fact that there were less than 10 Oncologists in the country.
Also, over 70 per cent of women who presented themselves to hospitals for breast cancer treatment were already at the advanced stage; therefore, early detection, early diagnosis, and early treatment were needed to improve the outcomes and diagnosis of the victims.
By Zainabu Issah/Ghana