The First Lady of Ondo State, Arabinrin Betty-Anyanwu Akeredolu today shared with the Federal Ministry of Health, some ideas that are geared towards eliminating cancer disease through holistic approach.
She dropped these ideas earlier today in Abuja at the Combined First and Second Quarter Meeting of the National Technical Working Group on Cancer Control and Prevention in Nigeria organised by the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to Mrs Akeredolu, to end the life threatening disease, all hands must be on deck through meetings, working collaboratively, and by walking the talk.
Mrs. Akeredolu who acknowledged the place of awareness in cancer control, however, stressed the need for a quality and equitable cancer care services in order to achieve the desired result.
Reeling out her thoughts to the gathering, the Founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, said: ” Addressing an aspect of the continuum in isolation will in many cases yield very little positive result. “The problems are indeed integrated and must be addressed using a holistic approach. To achieve any remarkable success in cancer care we must consider all aspects from prevention, detection to treatment”.
Mrs Akeredolu who was billed to speak on ‘The story of NGOs in the Cancer space–
Medicaid Experience, BRECAN Experience’, emphasised the need for early diagnosis of cancer and routine opportunistic cancer education to be conducted for persons seeking non-cancer related care at any health facility. She affirmed that, with this, there would be a significant improve on cancer outcomes and patients survival.
Using Ondo State as a case study where BRECAN partnered Health ministry to implement the initiative, the First Lady noted that, “If we ensure clinical breast examination services are offered at all the primary health centers, we can be sure we will be covering up to 80% of our target population since 85% of pregnant women in the state receive ANC at health facilities and up to 74% have institutional delivery, indicating high patronage of the health facilities by women of reproductive age.
“The primary health facilities will be required to refer patients with symptoms to the general hospital at the local government for what I will call “first-level diagnosis”. Patients with positive diagnosis will then be referred to a well-equipped cancer diagnostic center in the State to complete diagnosis within a specified time frame. We believe this strategy will significantly increase early detection and presentation of breast cancer”.
“It will be sensible and cost effective to utilize our existing health care system to create awareness on the common forms of Cancer”, she noted.
Highlighting further, the Ondo First Lady was confident that the effort would yield positive result when breast cancer survivors share their stories and provide psychosocial support to women diagnosed with the disease.
She said:” At Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria (BRECAN), we have a team of survivors called “Team Survivors Nigeria” in many parts of the country and they have been providing psychosocial support to breast cancer patient. I think this technical working group needs to consider this aspect of care.
“As some of you may know, Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria was founded in 1997 after my victorious battle against breast cancer, and for twenty-four years, we have been working to improve breast cancer outcome through awareness creation, advocacy and patient support. In these many years of existence, through research and field experience, we have come to realize that most factors impeding positive cancer outcome (especially breast, cervical and prostate) are multi-faceted yet integrated. It is therefore important to apply a holistic approach to cancer programming”.
Lamenting the rate of late presentation of cancer cases in the hospital, Mrs Akeredolu called for the involvement of religious leaders in the advocacy campaign, noting that they have influence over their members and should provide only psychosocial support and referral rather than trying to heal.
She averred further:” Talking about presentation, a study conducted by BRECAN in collaboration with some researchers from the University of Washington, Seattle, USA showed that religious leaders enjoy a high-level influence on breast cancer patients, and they can be a major contributor to delays in presentation”.
Another solution proffered by Her Excellency to control cancer and consequently death was a critical evaluation and re-modeling of health system to ensure accessibility, affordability and quality in order to curb loss to follow-up.
“Having survived breast cancer for twenty-four years and still counting, there is no better poster child to show that breast cancer can be beaten if we take the right steps at the right time. One of such steps is being breast aware, which I strongly believe is the entry point to surviving breast cancer”, she affirmed.