Women Die Of Breast, Cervical Cancers Due To Poverty – Okoye

Professor Ifeoma Okoye, is a Radiologist  at the College of Medicine, University  Of  Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu Campus (UNEC).

Her desire to  reduce the burden of death due to late Breast and Cervical cancers  detection through health education, screening, vaccination, training, and research on cancers and non-communicable diseases  motivated  her to set up  Breast Without Spot (BWS) a decade ago.

Speaking in a recent interview, Prof. Okoye said her organisation which is a member of Partnership For Eradication of Cancer in Africa (PECA), and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) with headquarters in Enugu, Nigeria has identified the need to establish and sustain an efficient awareness and enlightenment structure at the urban and grass root levels, to break cultural barriers and achieve an attitudinal impact among   Nigerians .

She   explained   that these barriers   can be broken through advocacy, community mobilisation, capacity building and development of Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials.

Quoting   the  World Health Organisation (WHO),  she said   Cancer is currently responsible for more than 7 million deaths per year, which is  higher  than  deaths that  occur  as  result  of  Malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS combined.

She expressed fears that by 2020, there are expected to be 15 million new cases of cancer yearly, adding that 70 percent  of which will be in developing countries, where governments are not  prepared to address the growing cancer burden.

“Globally, every 68 seconds a woman dies from breast cancer and every 2 minutes, a woman dies from cervical cancer and over 80 percent of these deaths occur in Africa. In Nigeria, the burden of cancer is not known, but some estimate has suggested that up to 500,000 cancer cases are diagnosed in Nigeria every year and more than 72 percent  of them die yearly.

“Half of these will be people of working age 30- 69 years old. Cervical cancer though preventable, kills 26 women daily in Nigeria. Nigerian studies continue to document that 83-87 percent  of Cancer patients in Nigeria present at late stages.

“According to WHO, 40 percent of deaths from cancer are preventable. The awareness level of Nigerian women to Cervical and Breast Cancers  is very low, and even this is dogged by fear, denial , superstitious biases, procrastination, misconceptions, perceptions, stigmatisation and poverty , which contribute to the late detection saga.

“Access to good equipment for proper screening and diagnosis also poses a threat to the early detection target,” she added.

Explaining the reason, cancer is on the increase , she recalled  thatWHO, in 2009   made a statement that the main reason for cancer in developing countries is the embrace of the western culture.

In her words: “If  we examine  that statement of embracing western culture, you look at increased industrialisation, increased urbanisation, and crowding. And, of course, in industrialisation, there is environmental pollution.

“There was a study that analysed the relationship between increasing cancer and increasing age of the population and the population living longer. We look at the contribution of diet, the contribution of urban life style, like sedentary life style, which is contributing to obesity. These factors are shared by urban non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and premature ageing, which is called degenerative diseases. So, industrialisation increases environmental pollution and, in Nigeria, we have not made any effort in that aspect”, she noted.

She observed  that  many cars in Nigeria are not road worthy, adding that  the fumes that they generate contribute to environmental pollution which  triggers  high rate  of cancer  in the country.

“Our refuse disposal is totally ineffective. There is so much putrefaction going on with much of our refuse hanging around, bringing out all sorts of odour we are all inhaling and then, of course, we cannot overlook the generators. If you go to high density areas where people are living in flats, where people are living very close to each other, the fumes from generator exhausts is just what the people inhale. One of the things they said, after evaluating the factors including the increased utilisation of alcohol and oral contraceptives, is that there are viruses that cause cancer.

“So when you put everything together, they found out that environmental pollution is actually the highest contributor.”

The Radiologist expert,  however  recommended that people  should  start  self- breast examination  the moment the breast buds come out, monthly.

Also, she stressed  the  need  for clinical breast examination once in a year, adding “The moment you get to the age of 20. And if you have a family history of breast cancer, you should not only do clinical breast examination once in a year or self breast examination monthly, you should also see a doctor and start doing ultra sound test of the breast before the age of 40 and then mammography after 40.

“Some people may insist that mammography should not be done annually until the age of 55. The same thing goes for cervical screening”, she added.

And  for  prostate cancer for men,   the Professor  cancelled  men   to start  screening at the age of 40.

“Some have even dropped it to 35 because black men are more likely to have prostate cancer than their white counterpart. And this shows that we need to look at what actually are the contributors and how we can address them”, she noted.

The post Women Die Of Breast, Cervical Cancers Due To Poverty – Okoye appeared first on Independent Nigeria.

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Author: Ngozi Okpalakunne