From Oluseye Ojo, ibadan
though breast and cervical cancers are preventable and treatable, they have, however, sent millions of Nigerian women to their early graves. This is because many victims usually present themselves to appropriate medical facility for treatment at the end-stage of the disease.
Early detection of the disease, according to gynaecologists and public health consultants, can increase the chance of survival of an affected person. Low level of cancer awareness and ignorance among patients has been discovered as the reason for the late stage presentations of the condition to specialists as well as subsequent poor rates of survival.
But the 571 Nigerian Air Force Detachment (NAF) Detachment, Ibadan, Oyo State, has risen to the occasion. It resolved to sensitise and screen wives and female children of its personnel and other women in Ibadan, with a view to stopping preventable breast cancer deaths.
All roads therefore led to the NAF Detachment at Abike Estate, Akobo, Ibadan, recently when the detachment in conjunction with a non-governmental organisation, Cancer Carelink, sensitised and screened more than 500 women and girls on breast cancer. The programme kicked off with an address by Commodore Emmanuel Akinbayo, Commander, 571 NAF Detachment, Ibadan:
“In line with the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) initiative, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, as part of his efforts to pay significant attention to the general well-being of NAF personnel, their relatives and members of the host communities, the CAS has commissioned several cancer screening centres including Kaduna, Abuja and Borno State.
“I am fully aware that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women aged 40 to 55. By the age of 80, women have a one-in-twelve chance of developing the disease. But many of these deaths can be prevented, through regular screening, early detection and treatment. In fact, if detected early through self-examination and mammograms, the survival rate for most types of breast cancer will exceed 90 percent.”
The NAF, he said, considers the medical and well-being of its personnel and their families of paramount importance, and to let the fighting force know that “we appreciate what they are doing there, to keep the country together.
“In the military and every profession, your wife is a better part of you. Since we have most of our personnel fighting in the North East to make the country to remain as one, it is paramount for us to make sure that their families are well taken care of. If you are anywhere fighting, and your family is not in good health, your concentration will be divided. You will not get the best out of them and their productivity will be declining.”
The most common types of cancer include breast cancer, prostrate cancer and cervical cancer. It has also been observed that many myths that surround cancer ought to be demystified urgently to enable people get the required medical attention.
Akinbayo described the sensitisation and screening exercise as a wake-up call to embrace medical seeking behaviour to avoid the ravages of the disease, “which is spreading quickly if not detected early enough. It is in this wise that I encourage you all to take a bold step and offer yourselves for screening.
“This is just the beginning of the long overdue public awareness campaign to save women’s lives, especially those already affected by the disease.”
He noted that when CAS paid a courtesy call on Governor Abiola Ajimobi during his recent visit to the NAF Detachment, “he made it clear that he was impressed with what we are doing here. He made it clear and said it in the presence of the first citizen of this state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, that the host community would benefit more from the NAF being here.
“The beneficiaries of the programme include personnel and the host community. We have made them to know that more are still coming. This is breast cancer programme, we will still organise another programme that will have to do with prostrate cancer, which is mainly for the men.”
A breast cancer survivor, Mrs. Nurat Salmon, a graduate of Mass Communications also counselled women on the menace: “I have a son. One day, I was breastfeeding him and he hit me on my left breast. I felt unusual pain.
“So, I later went to hospital for breast screening. But my case was not managed very well, which made it to develop to the state of cancer. Initially, it was a breast lump. I have had my left breast severed.
“I want to counsel every woman that early detection is what we should not joke with. Anytime you notice any strange pain in your breast, go to the hospital.”
Founder and lead convener, Cancer Carelink, Dr. Saidat Akanbi, told Daily Sun: “Breast cancer is a commonest cancer affecting our women in Nigeria. In fact, it is the commonest cause of cancer death among women in Nigeria. It is said that at least 40 women die from breast cancer everyday. And at least, 500,000 new cases are discovered every year.
“In developed countries, women also have breast cancer but they don’t die from it because they detect it early and they go to hospital and receive care. In Nigeria, the story different. Our women are not detecting breast cancer early.
“The bulk of the reason is, however, because they are not aware of the early signs and symptoms. When they find out that there are unusual symptoms in their breasts, or in their bodies, they don’t have access to care and hospitals, they don’t have financial power to seek for screening and investigation that can help them to detect breast cancer early. They don’t have access to financial power that can give them treatment.
“Treating cancer is very expensive. In Nigeria, it is even more difficult for those patients because they don’t have the insurance that covers the cancer. Many people go to hospitals with end stage of breast cancer, which is a stage by which the breast cancer would have spread through their bodies and there was little we could do.”
Akanbi revealed that the Cancer Carelink has in the overall screened more than 1,000 women, as well as picked many people with breast lumps, and breast cancer, adding that of these people, the organisation has sponsored the care of at least 30.
A dietician, Solomon Inanasam, who is a Squadron Leader in the NAF Detachment, cautioned that the choice people make concerning what they eat, the cumulative effect of it would come back to them.
A member of House of Representatives, Temitope Olatoye, represented by his elder brother, Jide, promised the support of Olatoye Sugar Foundation for NAF Detachment, Ibadan and Cancer Carelink.
Akinbayo: “The NAF is doing everything humanly possible to make sure that the fight against Boko Haram comes to an end. The NAF platform has been a game changer in this campaign against Boko Haram.” The NAF, he said, is fully in intelligence surveillance, transportation of troops and equipment to the North, adding that the personnel prosecuting the war must be in the right frame of mind, and their families must be in good condition as well.
Akinbayo noted that NAF actively participated in the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East, and doing everything possible to provide medical support to the personnel prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram. He commended the Chief Medical Service of the NAF, for doing a very good job.
Three among the beneficiaries, Mrs. Adewumi Oyebadejo, Mrs. Aisha Souleymane and Miss Oluwakemi Folarin, all described the programme as a laudable one. Oyebadejo noted that she had done screening for breast and cervical cancers in the past: “The exercise is a good one in view of what we hear from every angle about deaths due to breast cancer.”
Souleymane, a trader in Ibadan, said: “This is a very wonderful exercise. We women need to understand many things about our bodies, especially breast cancer. You don’t need to be a cancer patient for you go for screening. This is my first time of going through this exercise.”
Folarin, a graduate of Computer Science: “I am very excited about it. I have been educated and I am now informed. I have not done this type of test before. But I have heard of it.”