-Seek Improved Government Support in Stemming the Tide
As part of activities to commemorate the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) which takes place worldwide all through the month of October, the Care Organization Public Enlightenment (COPE) in collaboration with Pfizer Nigeria and Bricon Foundation have joined the advocacy to stem the ugly prevalence of the condition in Nigeria.
Decrying the high prevalence of breast cancer in the country, COPE CEO, Mrs, Ebunola Anozie, said this statistics can be drastically reduced if every woman is adequately informed on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and what is expected of them immediately they see any of these strange signs in their bodies, because early detection is key to the survival of the patient.
Addressing journalists during a press conference on the campaign, she noted the negative socio-economic impacts of cancer on the country, which tends to increase if all hands are not put on deck to prevent further loss of lives and resources.
Calling on governments at all levels to increase allocation to healthcare, particularly for cancer care, she explained how pretty difficult it is for patients to survive without external support.”The average Nigerian cannot cope with the enormous cost associated with treating this disease, and a lack of adequate diagnostic and treatment centres as well as the dearth of qualified personnel, makes the cancer journey a perilous, traumatic and sometimes lonely one.
“There are countless examples of patients being abandoned as a result of the high cost and even superstitious beliefs that the person is somehow responsible and is being punished by God for some wrong doing or is under some sort of curse.
“Whilst there have been several proposed cancer action plans by different international bodies, including the UN, we cannot overemphasised the need for political will in Nigeria to really tackle the issue of cancer with the urgency and seriousness it deserves. To date, Nigeria is yet to take on a holistic and determined action plan to address the cancer scourge. The need for comprehensive cancer centres’ nationwide cannot be overemphasised”.
Anozie, who lost her parents to colorectal cancer and stomach cancer in 1970 and 1995 respectively, pleaded with Nigerians to be conscious of their lifestyle, by doing away with sedentary lifestyle, to which most people are accustomed to.”We need to really take charge of our lifestyle, by having regular exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, and very importantly, have a heart to forget, because unforgiveness is toxic to our system”.
“We will continue to work together and speak with one voice to help raise awareness on early detection, reducing cancer risks and improving the quality of life for cancer survivors and patients” Ngozi Ushedo, Pfizer Media & Public Relations Manager.
For the Co-founder of the Bricon Foundation, Abigail Simon-Hart, who had had a double mastectomy, early diagnosis to win the war against cancer. While maintaining that cancer is not a death sentence, she said patients can live their good lives to the fullest, if detected early.
Stressing the essence of the global campaign, she noted that awareness is key, but unfortunately, most Nigerians usually present late for diagnosis, which makes it a very difficult task for the healthcare team.
To achieve the best healthcare outcome, she urged patients to seek help as soon as they notice any strange development on their bodies, “whether on your breast, skin, on urine, it is important you get it checked, because it’s all about early detection”.
“I personally was diagnosed of breast cancer in 2014, fortunately it was discovered early. So I had a double mastectomy, which means I removed both breast and I’m currently cancer free, due to the fact that we got it early. So I’m a great advocate of cancer awareness creation, as I make bold to tell anyone I’m a cancer survivor and I’m not ashamed about it. As long as people are afraid, it brings stigma, and as long as there is stigma, people will be unwilling to come out for screening”.