Women advocates have urged the government to include the screening and treatment of breast cancer to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) so that the most vulnerable in society can benefit.
At the launch of the 2018 edition of Pink October, a Trust Hospital initiative to increase awareness on break cancer screening and treatment, the advocates noted that due to the high cost of treatment, the most affected, poor women, could not afford treatment and therefore are at risk of losing their lives.
Dr. Victoria Partey Newman, Doctor-in-Charge of the Well Woman Clinic at the Trust Hospital said: “breast cancer treatment is very expensive and the average Ghanaian women including corporate women cannot afford it holistically. We are calling on government to add it to the regiment of the NHIS to cover some percentage of the cost of screening and treatment,’’ she appealed.
She identified some risk factors such as age and genetic mutations as the cause of breast cancer related cases adding that some 3,000 cases of breast cancer are reported yearly in Ghana and out of the number, the prevalence rate of women between 40 to 49 years is rising.
“Now we are seeing cases of about 25 to 29 years among women and the age bracket is reducing because of westernization, modernisation and sedentary lifestyles,’’ Dr Partey added.
She revealed that the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra records some 400 breast cancer related cases annually, adding, out of that number, 2.4percent are males which meant that 10 out of 400 males have breast cancer.
“In Korle-Bu they noticed that 60 to 70percent come in advance stages where nothing can be done for them and that is quite worrying,’’ she lamented.
Globally, there are 1.67million breast cancer cases reported annually with one percent representing males. Advanced and metastatic breast cancer is currently incurable, but treatable, with a median survival rate of 2-3 years.
Dr. Partey encouraged women and men to practice healthy lifestyles and visit the hospital regularly to screen and check for possible cancer detection and treatment.
She noted that the Trust Hospital has embarked on a project that offers free screening and even surgeries and post-surgery therapy too for free.
Shamima Muslim Alhassan, Founder and Convener for the Alliance for Women in Media Africa (AWMA), noted that women are the productive and reproductive base of the Ghanaian economy and so government has no reason to not adding breast cancer treatment to the NHIS.
“We have to ensure that women are treated because we don’t have to lose live unnecessary, especially when we can prevent such lose,” she said.
She also called for the comprehensive gathering of data that will aid effective planning and interventions to deal with situations like this. “We don’t have centralized data regarding the figures. Every hospital has its own data but we do not have a national data that is reliable or credible,” she added.
She called for investment in the gathering of credible data that will help in advocacy so that “we see a clearer picture that will enable us develop critical interventions.”
Ms. Muslim added that the Alliance for Women in Media Africa is using its platform to increase awareness about women issues including breast cancer. “We can’t also do that if we don’t educate ourselves, change our attitude and perception on breast cancer. We must effectively deal with the myth surrounding breast cancer issue,” she said.
Oheneyere Gifty Anti, the ace broadcaster and women advocate, told women to take their destiny into their hands. “Our health is everything; other things are second. When you are healthy you can achieve whatever you will put our mind in it.
When you are sick, I don’t see how you can do anything. When you are condemned to a bed, when you are condemned to a wheel chair, you cannot do anything. You can’t give what you don’t have, if you are not healthy you can’t raise healthy children, you can’t raise or manage a healthy home. So it is you first and the rest,” she said.
She noted that due to the cost of treatment of breast cancer adding it to the NHIS should be a matter of urgency and priority. “There are some who can’t afford it so, we are pleading and continue to plead with government to get it on the national insurance scheme so that more women can be treated. This will allow more women go through the screening,” she added.
Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The Well Woman Clinic, under the Trust Hospital, sees Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a means of engaging and screening women for early detection breast cancer related issues.
Dr. Francis Ahiaku, Acting General Manager of the Trust Hospital reiterated the hospital’s commitment to helping women diagnosed with breast cancer related issues and called on them to regularly visit the hospital for check-ups and early detection. This year, the Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness campaign will focus on the Tema General Market, Republic Bank Ghana and other institutions.
The theme for this year’s event which is ‘Care Beyond October’ will see the healthcare provider follow up on its present and previous clients, provide health assistance and social support to persons who have been diagnosed with breast cancer related issues.