Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of Ghana Health Service, has said breast cancer remains a major public health burden for the global community – the cancer considered universal among women worldwide.
He said recent reports indicate that breast cancer makes up 25 per cent of all new cancers diagnosed in women globally; with about 2.1 million new cases diagnosed annually worldwide.
“The majority of newly diagnosed breast cancers as well as majority of breast cancer associated deaths occur in developing countries, including Ghana,” Dr Nsiah-Asare said.
He said this in a speech read for him at the media launch of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month organised by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and its partner hospitals in collaboration with the Accra City Hotel.
The effort is to educate the public on the dangers of delaying in seeking prompt treatment of the disease.
October every year is dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer through public education on breast cancer and treatments.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said late presentation of breast cancer cases was due to low awareness and unavailable mass screening programmes; non-accessibility of specialised treatment centres, and socio-cultural beliefs even among the elite, including women and females in the health profession.
He said breast cancer is the commonest cancer among women, a public health concern and must be given the needed attention.
“Prevention pays and primary prevention is the best of options. Certain lifestyle changes provide significant benefits to lower a women’s risk of getting breast cancer regardless of where she lives,” he said.
He said working toward or maintaining a healthy weight; avoiding or limiting menopause hormone therapy; limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day or less; regular exercises and avoiding sedentary lifestyle could reduce a woman’s risk of getting the disease.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said other risk factors that affect breast cancer include old age and being age 55 or older; genetic and familial tendencies, having dense breast tissue, and going through menopause later in life or starting menstruation at a younger age could not be controlled.
“For such and all other women, early detection is key and we as professionals and advocates should teach and encourage women to self-examine and ask for assistance to ensure early detection of breast cancers to enable best treatment outcomes.
“The modalities for preventing, and controlling breast cancer are well known. We, as a society must inculcate the practice of these modalities to ensure breast cancer is no longer a disease condition of public health significance in the country.
“We need to work together and very fast to scale up and enhance public education on breast and other cancers; improve access to screening facilities and programmes at the peripheries and improve referral systems for higher level care when needed to ensure continuum of care from the primary to the tertiary care; work fast to develop the national cancer and breast cancer treatment protocols and guidelines; and develop the national cancer and breast cancer registry,” he added.
Dr Florence Dedey, Head of Breast Unit, (KBTH), said International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that over 4,600 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in Ghana this year, and more than 1,800 women would lose their lives to that cancer.
She said unfortunately, more than half of the women who were treated in Ghana, received their treatment when the disease was rather advanced, thereby negatively affecting the outcome of their efforts.
She said throughout the month they would continue to increase breast cancer awareness through public education, teaching self-breast examination and offering clinical breast examination as well as engaging in breast cancer advocacy and solicit for funds to help needy patients.
Dr Dedey called on the public, including medical and media personnel as well as survivors, advocates, to put their hands to the wheel to spread the message saying “early detection and effective treatment of breast cancer does save lives”.
Dr Daniel Asare, Chief Executive Officer (KBTH), said breast, though admirable, it is also a seat of disease that could kill adding regular screening, early detection and early treatment are the sure ways to demystify the fear surrounding the disease.
He announced that Korle Bu Teaching Hospital would be 100 years in 2023 and they want to partner with the private sector to put up a one-stop-centre with 100 bed capacity to boost medical tourism in the country.
Mr Roman Krabel, General Manager, Accra City Hotel, said there is the need for the public to arm themselves with the knowledge and tools to fight breast cancer.
He said partnering with the KBTH in the breast cancer advocacy forms part of the Hotel’s 13th anniversary and they owe it a duty to Ghanaians to share their love through the partnership.