By Doris Obinna
In order to drive greater awareness around breast cancer, Pfizer, with medical professionals, recently held a media roundtable on how to empower and support patients in Nigeria and Ghana.
According to the firm, the aim of the roundtable was to empower patients in this awareness month and metastatis day, which fell on the October 13.
“Breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women in Nigeria and Ghana, as it accounted for 22.7 per cent of new cancer cases in Nigeria and 18.7 per cent of new ones in Ghana in 2020,” said a Globocan study.
Pfizer aims to bring greater awareness in Nigeria and Ghana “around metastatic breast cancer as the most advanced stage of breast cancer Nigeria.”
The roundtable was graced by two reputable medical professionals from Nigeria and Ghana, and addressed local metastatic breast cancer incidence, how it is diagnosed, who is at risk, steps to take to fight breast cancer and set the right expectations, as well as latest advances in treatment.
Participants stressed that, although great progress has been made in the treatment and care of breast cancer, there was still a lot more work to be done. They agreed that it was especially true within underserved and hard-to-reach communities in
places that, too often, experience critical gaps in their care.
“Timely access, affordable treatment options and expansion of resources and
programmes that address current disparities across age, race, gender and location can remove barriers that stand in the way of the most vulnerable people with breast cancer.”
According to the Globocan 2020 study, breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women in Nigeria and Ghana, accounting for 22.7 per cent of new cancer cases in Nigeria and 18.7 per cent of new ones in Ghana, respectively, in 2020.
“Moreover, it impacts over 247,000 people across Africa and the Middle East (AfME). Early-stage breast cancer is when cancer cells have not spread beyond the breast or auxillary lymph nodes. However, in AfME, 50-60 per cent of breast cancer patients are in locally advanced or advanced stages at initial diagnosis, metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, and it occurs when cancer spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, liver and bones.”
Medical director, sub-Saharan Africa, Pfizer, Dr. Kodjo Soroh, said, “At Pfizer, we remain committed to improving patients’ lives and supporting them at each step of their breast cancer experience. Across the region, patients are diagnosed with late or advanced-stage cancer at a higher incidence rate than other regions globally.
“There is a distinct need for more awareness campaigns to regularly encourage patients to check themselves for breast cancer and better understand the disease. Moreover, over the past decade, improved diagnostics and newer treatment options for late-stage breast cancer, including those with different gene abnormalities, offer new horizons and hope for these patients.
“We feel a deep obligation to advocate for people with breast cancer at every stage of their disease. Through our partnerships and programmes, we continue to create access to better screening services, clinical trials, treatment options and extended support to mental health and financial resources, more so during life’s
unexpected events, such as COVID-19.”
Representing the National Radiotherapy Oncology and
Nuclear Medicine Centre, Ghana, Dr. Hannah Naa Gogwe Ayettey Anie said, “Most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease.
“However, there are changes in the breast that some women do not notice. Therefore, it is hard to overestimate the importance of conducting self-examination and going for regular check-ups.
“While each case is unique, age, certain genetic mutations, like BRCA1 and
BRCA2, getting periods before age 12 or starting menopause after age 55, having dense breasts, and family history are all known risk factors. With better awareness, prevention, treatment and access to
diagnostics, early detection could save between 2.4 and 3.7 million lives each year globally.”