New Telegraph

When women united against breast/cervical cancers

Breast and cervical cancers are the most common forms of cancers that affect women globally. Ironically most women especially from third world countries who are uneducated ascribe cancer to witchcraft and to village people thus allowing the cancer to eat deep into their system and by the time it is detected it has become so advanced that most of them die. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breast cancer arises as a result of the lining cells (epithelium) of the ducts or lobules in the glandular tissue of the breast. Breast cancer treatment, according to WHO, can be highly effective when the disease is identified early.

Treatment of breast cancer often consists of a combination of surgical removal, radiation therapy and medication (hormonal therapy, chemotherapy and/or targeted biological therapy) to treat the microscopic cancer that has spread from the breast tumour through the blood. It is on record that as at 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As at the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years. Breast cancer as recorded by WHO most commonly presents as a painless lump or thickening in the breast, a breast lump or thickening, alteration in size, shape or appearance of a breast, dimpling, redness, pitting or other alteration in the skin, change in nipple appearance or alteration in the skin surrounding the nipple (areola); and/ or abnormal nipple discharge.

Breast cancers may spread to other areas of the body and trigger other symptoms. Often, the most common first detectable site of spread is to the lymph nodes under the arm although it is possible to have cancer-bearing lymph nodes that cannot be felt.

Over time, cancerous cells may spread to other organs including the lungs, liver, brain and bones. Once they reach these sites, new cancer-related symptoms such as bone pain or headaches may appear. Breast cancer treatment can be highly effective, achieving survival probabilities of 90% or higher, particularly when the disease is identified early. In places like Bayelsa, women unknowingly die of breast and cervical cancer but most of them ignorantly blame witches and wizards for their misfortune.

That was why some groups formed a coalition during the 2022 World Cancer Awareness Day to inform the public of the dangers of late detection of cancer. Some of the groups, which naturally are mainly handled by women, spoke to New Telegraph on their efforts so far. According to Gloria Diri Foundation being coordinated by Juliet Teibwei the group has done a lot to create awareness about the scourge. According to Teibwei: “We have done several sensitization, awareness programmes and advocacy. “Like you are aware, this foundation partnered with BRECAN during their sensitization and awareness that took place and we organised a sensitization and awareness campaign at Agudama Ekpetiama in Yenagoa Local Government where we did breast cancer examination, preventative measures and everything concerning breast cancer.

“During that outreach, we carried out an awareness programme. That was November last year and we are also planning on having breast cancer screening this year. We are going to kick off that project concerning the screening but we were able to do sensitization programmes in many places in Bayelsa.” On how the organisation communicates with the locals who often do not understand English, the organisation’s spokesperson said: “For Gloria Diri foundation, most time when we go out for this sensitization to these villages, we use our dialects.

Sometimes we have volunteers that are from the community. Most persons that are from there use to relate with the locals that are there with Ijaw or with Epie dialects or whichever language that they understand. “So they communicate with them with the local dialect and there is always practical examination on how to examine the breast. We have volunteer medical personnel, Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others. “We also have what we call the elderly care project which we do every month. We go to different local governments where we have beneficiaries that we take care of on a monthly basis.

We do empowerment programme for girls and sensitization programme.” Also the state coordinator of the Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), Bayelsa chapter, Zipuamere Afenfia, reeling out what BRECAN has done, said: “I’m sure you are aware that breasts cancer association of Nigeria was inaugurated in October, 2021 and to mark that we had ‘Pink October’. “We held an inaugural walk where the First Lady of the state, Gloria Diri, was present. And February 2022, we collaborated with other NGOs in the cancer space like NMA, nurses and midwives had an awareness walk all the way from Tombia to Opolo market where we also created awareness targeted at market women. “For us in BRECAN the association primarily cares for breast and cervical cancers; but since it was World Cancer Day, we created awareness around and before that day. We were in schools at Otuesagha, Sagbama and Amassoma where we sensitized students on what cancer is all about.

“We discussed cancer with the children and they were able to ask questions and we also taught them how to perform breast self-examination. And so far after October, we have had five patients come through us to access medical care. “Out of these five, one had to undergo a lumpectomy.

She had complained about a lump in her breast. We talked to her about it and she was able to access discounted examination. “Any patient that comes through BRECAN Bayelsa State to Sellout gets a discount. So they were able to access this. We had two of such women. “They had to undergo mastectomies because it was discovered that they had cancer; but by God’s grace, they are doing well after doing the operation. “They are using their chemo.

One has taken two. The other one has taken three and they are doing well. We also have some other persons that before now were struggling with coming to terms with what it is that they are passing through someone also had to do pelvic swab test, pap test and she was asked to do a repeat of that because it wasn’t too clear. “We also collaborated with the Redeemed Christian Church of God where we screened about 700 women. “We taught them how to do breast selfcancer examinations and they were also screened using the pap smear test. Although we are young in Bayelsa, I think that God is helping us, because we are making an impact. We also have a radio programme that we run.

“We call on well-meaning Bayelsans to join us. Thank God for the likes of Bishop Dotimim Egbegi. In collaboration with his outfit, we were able to run a programme on radio during World Cancer Day.” Also Dr Toboulayefa Awudu, Desk Officer for Non-communicable Diseases in Bayelsa State, said: “I’m just new in that post. We are trying to put new things together in collaboration with the national because they want to have a cancer control programme where an organisation has indicated interest to provide medication and chemotherapy. That is what we are doing for now.

There is nothing really feasible on the ground for now.” Also speaking, the President of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, Gbanai Oweifa, said: “For now, we have just done advocacy in churches. We are also working out some programmes. We want to see if we can do some screening but we haven’t gotten the funding yet.” Oasis Public Health Consulting/Cancer Awareness Prevention Campaign’s Nuive Oyeyemi said: “We have been having publicity in churches and other places. We work with BRECAN too like during this cancer walk. “We teach breast self-examination. We also teach women the use of breast eye and then recommend them to go for mammogram for those who are eligible. “We do breast awareness generally and teach ways of early detection.

For cervical cancer, we perform Pap smears, vaccinations and all that. “We go to churches like in our own Redeemed Christian Church of God, where hold outreach sessions every first Sunday of the month. We may have a health topic but we chip in cancer information too. “Unfortunately, the response of the women has been poor. For them to attend screenings is a big issue but if we hold such screenings, like say during a church programme, the women will turn up. They use to turn up because it is part of the church programme – but this not encouraging.”

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