An NGO, Dove-Haven Foundation (DHF) has organised a virtual symposium on Prevention Strategies and Coping Mechanism against Breast Cancer” targeted at sensitising and educating the people in rural areas.
In his opening remarks, Dr Ekundayo Samuel, the Executive Director of DHF, described the organisation as a not-for-profit, non-political and non-governmental organisation located at Isanlu, Yagba East L.G.A, Kogi State, Nigeria.
He explained that the organization was established with the aim of promoting the health and wellbeing of the population by reducing cancer threat.
”Our programs are designed to raise cancer awareness and education in the society; provide easy access to cancer screening, diagnosis, management; and enhance the quality of life of cancer patients,” he said
He noted that the symposium was organised as part of the organisation’s statutory activities to reduce cancer threat especially in Nigeria.
He stated that Breast Cancer had taken over as the leading cancer type globally from Lung Cancer.
According to him, although there is no enough accurate data, breast cancer is still the leading cancer type in Nigeria and many people die from the disease yearly.
He stated that over 2.3 Million people currently are diagnosed with Breast Cancer and around 700, 000 people have died from it.
”In Nigeria, as of today within a five year period, four out of five cancer patients hardly survive the disease including patients with breast cancer.
”That is why the organisation is clamoring for ways to help in preventing breast cancer and how cancer patients can cope,” Samuel said.
Dr Samuel noted DHF remained one of the very few Cancer focused NGO located in a rural areas because of its believe that people in the rural areas also have right to access cancer care benefits.
He acknowledged the support of Patela Care Foundation, and encouraged other bigger NGO’s to support DHF in any way they could.
The various Guest speakers, who spoke at the symposium, urged the people to take every precautionary measure to prevent, detect breast and cervical cancers at early stage.
In his lecture, Dr. Sesan Oluwasola, Consultant/Gynecologist, University College Hospital Ibadan, who spoke on ”Research perspective” of the topic, stressed that ‘prevention is better than cure’ as far as cancer management was concerned.
He explained that breast cancer has highest prevalence in Nigerian women followed by Cervical cancer, adding that both cancers if detected early could achieve hundred percent cure.
He added: ”but unfortunately, most Nigeria women only report when the disease has gone out of hands”.
He noted that breast cancer was very high in developed countries but with low mortality rate, while in developing countries like Nigeria breast cancer lower but with high mortality rate.
This, he said was as a result of inadequate measures and access to cancer health care facilities.
The medical expert advised women to be careful to take every precautionary measure either to prevent or to detect breast and cervical cancers early.
According to him, when it comes to breast and cervical cancers, being a woman is a risk factor and woman without family history and other high risk can still be infected with breast cancer.
Also speaking, Dr. Foluke Sarimiye, Co-founder/Executive Director, Patela Care Foundation, who spoke on ”Psychological issues and Coping Mechanism”, said every cancer has psychological issues associated with it like anxiety and depression.
Sarimiye, who is a Consultant in Clinical Oncology and Lecturer at University of Ibadan, noted that Breast represent a symbol of Feminism in women, saying, ”it takes a lot of courage, strength, psychotherapy and support especially from spouse for a lady to have a breast cancer surgery.
She added that knowledge was key in the aspect of coping mechanism of breast cancer, as it involved knowing when to have routine mammogram for women above 40 years, health system available to each economic constraint and know more about the disease.
On his part, Mr Runcie Chidebe, Executive Director, Project Pink Blue, said Nigerians were battling with cancer after undergoing treatment because of inadequate cancer research data in the country.
Chidebe decried that Nigeria only have six Oncological Clinical trials ongoing in the country out of over 100,000 cancer patients yearly.
He stressed that with over 200 million population if more precaution was not put in place, by the year 2040 the death from cancer patients would be multiplied by 50 per cent.
Another speaker, Mrs. Adedayo Olusayo, a cancer survivor who shared her experience, said she was depressed as a widow because there was no money, but her doctor encouraged her and she was able to get support.
Olusayo said she had her surgery, followed by Chemotherapy and then Radiation therapy, adding that she was able to go through all these through her family and relatives’ support as well as support from her religious institution.
The cancer survivor decried the attitude of some healthcare workers towards cancer patients, saying it was not encouraging.
She encouraged cancer patients to speak up and not be afraid of any stigma as it is a matter of life and death.
She stressed that diagnosing and treating breast cancer early give a higher chance of survival.
Dr. Alhassan Umar Adamu, the President of Nigerian Cancer Society, appreciated the efforts of DHF for organising the program; and the guest speakers for their various contributions.
Adamu noted that Nigeria has very few professionals (Clinical Oncologist) to match the multitude of cancer patients in the country.
He said it was very challenging for patients to access cancer treatments and care because most of the processes available were not affordable to the masses which remained the major problem of cancer care in Nigeria.
Adamu encouraged the people to stand and be there for every cancer patients in Nigeria, saying no one organisation could do it alone.
He encouraged cancer NGOs on the need to team up to scale up the advocacy and policy engagement to significantly reduce the rate of cancer in Nigeria.
Other speakers who spoke at the event were: Mrs. Eniola Akintunde, Executive Director Niola Cancer Care Foundation; and Dr. Ishak Lawal – Technical Advisor Dove-Haven Foundation (DHF).
The speakers advised the government and cancer NGOs to work together so that Nigeria could have own cancer research data, stressing that the country could not continue to rely on data gotten from other countries.
They enjoined cancer patients to listen to their doctors in order to cope with the disease, while urging doctors to have cordial relationship with their patients.
The speakers also encouraged every stakeholder to come together to promote cancer prevention strategies, and be an advocate at religious centres, working places and mostly on social media.