As part of efforts to reduce cases of breast cancer, increase its awareness for early detection and encourage the public to break the myth surrounding the disease, the Danquah institute has held a symposium at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) to mark the global month-long advocacy in the Central Region.
The symposium organised in partnership with the Women’s Commission under the Senior Staff Association of the University of Cape Coast and the Breast Care International had a total of one hundred and fifty- four (154) students and staff from the University community screened.
Out of the number screened, it emerged that six cases (6) were recorded between the ages of 20- 40years with the youngest 21 and oldest 40 years respectively.
Speaking on the theme for the event, “Breast Cancer Knowledge, Attitudes and screening Practices in Ghana” the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Professor Mrs. Rosemond Boohene noted that breast cancer is a health red flag which has been hoisted very high to attract the attention of policy makers, health experts, traditional authorities and the ordinary citizens.
Expressing her appreciation to the Danquah Institute for bearing the cost of the screening and consultation exercise for the University community by bringing on board the Breast Care International, she stressed that breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women.
“When the pandemic hit, people with breast cancer found themselves in a difficult situation with a lot of them at high risk of contracting the virus due to overwhelmed hospitals with some extreme cases even postponed” – she recounted.
She observed that in 2020, there were 2.3 million diagnoses of breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally, with higher mortality rate of women in developing countries. Declaring her unflinching support to win the global fight against the disease, the Professor of Enterprise Development at the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Small Enterprise at the School of Business of the UCC, explained that the global breast cancer awareness initiative of the World Health Organisation aims to reduce the cancer mortality by 2.5% per year. “The WHO has introduced three measures to achieve this goal through health promotion for early detection, timely diagnosis and comprehensive breast cancer management, and the school together with all partners supports the course through the first and second measures because we believe in contributing to a healthy Ghana in our own small way hoping to see more partnership with the Danquah Institute to achieve the third measure”
Delivering a speech on behalf of the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, the Board Secretary of the Institute, Lawyer Mansa Williams said the Institute prides itself in creating more of such platforms for dialogue and to add to knowledge for informed decision making for policy makers on subject of national importance and the wellbeing of the people.
She remarked “the programme is important to change attitudes towards the fight against the disease because breast cancer is an ailment the country and globally can’t be taken for granted as it affects mostly women. In Ghana, 31.8% of cancer cases were breast cancer and mostly diagnosed at the advanced stages unlike in the developed world high percentage of cases are detected at the early stages.”
She urged that the narrative in our parts of the world especially Ghana is changed with conscious effort to deepen our knowledge about the disease, change our attitudes and cultivate the habit to screen frequently.
She observed that last year the institute successfully held a similar event which involved a panel discussion with eminent persons with vast experience on the subject to sensitize the general public and duty bearers to rise to the occasion by putting in place effective policies to help mitigate the dangers the disease is having on the human resource capital especially women and girls.
In conclusion, she stated that the Institute is committed to hold more of these events by moving out of Accra to make the desired impact as the Institute is aware of the seriousness of breast cancer in order not to lose lives.
Resource person for the symposium, who is a retired Radiographer and renowned breast cancer advocate with the Breast Care International (BCI), Madam Grace Animwaa addressing the University community and invited dignitaries underscored the need to overcome fear in getting scanned as the effects of radiography seems to cause more fright to women.
The advocate who has worked at the Komfo Anokye Hospital and with over 30 years of experience in mammography however admitted that there is a level of negative effect in coming into contact with radiation but it shouldn’t deter the public most especially women as the advantage of knowing the status and taking charge of the breast outweighs the dangers when diagnosis is delayed.
Other dignitaries that graced the occasion are the Deputy Director of the Danquah Institute, Dr. Hayford Ayerakwa, the Womens’ Commissioner of Senior Staff Association-UCC, Mrs. Joana Akinola, Director of the Centre for Gender, Research, Advocacy and Documentation-CEGRAD, Dr. Georgina Yaa Oduro, a representative of the Central Regional Minister, Hon Justina Marigold Assan, the President of Breast Cancer Survivors’ Association, Mrs Vivian Gyasi Sarfo and others.
The session of the symposium where survivors shared their stories was moderated by Dr. Doris Akyere Boateng, a Fellow of the Danquah Institute and senior lecturer at the University of Ghana, Social Work department.