Cancer is bad news everywhere but not a death sentence. This is evident in the case of Mrs Agnes Ola, who in 1983 as a nursingmother noticed a lump in her left breast which later metamorphosed in 2009 to cancer of the breast.
The discovery of the lump first was like the end of her life. She was enveloped in the world of fear. She became afraid and needed to hear something different from her friends.
Fear, confusion and denial, set in. Her mind was in turmoil. Although it was just a lump that was discovered then, she was hoping there would be other solution apart from operating on the breast since she was nursing a four – month old baby.
Out of fear, Agnes resorted to all sorts of concoctions and almost lost her life in the process. She went back to hospital where the lump was removed.
However, in August 2008, the problem resurfaced and in January, 2009, the second lump was removed and diagnosis of cancer was confirmed. Then the treatment started.
Cancer is a tumour or growth caused when cells multiply uncontrollably, destroying healthy tissues. Ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, prostrate cancer and breast cancer are among the most common type of cancer in Nigeria.
Just like Agnes, many Nigerian women have succumbed to cancer due to ignorance, late presentation and low awareness.
Most cancer patients in Nigeria often find out quite late that they have the disease.
These reasons and more informed a recent collaboration between Bristow Aviation and Sebeccly Cancer Care to mark this year’s Cancer month. At a free breast cancer-screening event, a Clinical Radiation Oncologist blamed poor survivor rates on late presentation.
Salako, also the Executive Director, Sebeccly Cancer Care, noted that whereas late presentation of cancer in hospitals was due to ignorance, early detection and prompt treatment is the key to surviving this deadly disease.
“Many breast cancer patients are presenting at stage 4. The reason is because they do not have the right information and they do not know where to go. Many cannot afford treatment. So these barriers prevent patients from surviving cancer. Only few people survive cancer. In Nigeria here, approximately, only three will be alive at 10 years.
“Early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that it can be cured. If detected late, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such case, palliative care to relief the sufferings of patients and their families are needed.
Identifying poor awareness as a major contributor to low cancer survivor rates in Nigeria, she lamented that with cervical cancer and other cancers preventive, a lot of patients are coming in with cancers that can be prevented.
Salako stated that the major non-modifiable risk factors of breast cancer include gender, age, genetics, family or personal history of breast cancer, race and menstrual history. The clinical oncologist noted that lifestyle-related factors such as diet, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, using hormone replacement therapy, taking birth control pills, etc. are modifiable risk factors that fuels breast cancer. Cancer is not contagious and not a death sentence.
Speaking, Bristow Uplift Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Mayowa Babatunde, said the partnership programme was to raise awareness and an intervention to save more women. ”It is one of the diseases affecting women and it is considered as death sentence. We just want to play our part to save more lives. It is our charitable given programme where we intervene by giving our time and resources. Today we are raising the awareness in house and we are taking it to the public throughout the month of October.”